Friendship || Nick van Santen
LOVE is often described in terms of two contexts: the romantic and the erotic. Meaning that love is either sexual (i.e. making love) or marital (“I’ll love you forever). But there are other different types and expressions of love. The type of love I have been fascinated with these last ten years is referred to in the Bible as phileo love. This love is most commonly known as “brotherly love.” It’s a type of love that can transcend gender, sexual attraction, and even romance.
It is the love often used to express friendship.
Friendship can be a tricky subject. It’s normally assumed as a virtue and yet why is it rarely valued in communities? It’s a centerpiece of any healthy college community and yet why do students feel so lonely? In fact, I overheard in one of my graduate classes that the loneliest demographic in the US are married family men.
Here’s the deal. I think we have forgotten the art of friendship. In the mess and busyness of life, friendship becomes a shared experience or mutual goal. It’s becomes more about playing basketball than an actual connection. So as life progresses, friendships change from basketball to being newly weds, then young families, and empty nesters. In each stage, friendship is being dictated by age and stage instead of a deeper connection.
Yet there has been a lot of thought about this art of Friendship. As early as the fourth century BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle delved into the shallow and deeper meanings of friendship.
Here are his common three types:
1). The friendship of utility
We are friends because we share a common goal such as a major, the desire to get good grades, or the same fraternity values.
2). The friendship of pleasure
Instead of looking for the leveraged deal like that of utility, this friendship is built upon passions. These are friendships are between likeminded people and those you generally enjoy spending time with.
3). The friendship of virtue
This is the highest form of friendship. It’s a selfless friendship that genuinely wants what is best for the other regardless of utility or pleasure. A person can only have a few of these types of friends due to the AMOUNT OF TIME and EFFORT that these friendships require.
This is the type of friendship Jesus will take even a step further in his ministry.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”
The goal of friendship is not to make the right networks. It’s not to make sure you covered your recommendations for graduate school. Friendship is not designed to give you affection and love.
Friendship, when done how Christ talks about it, is designed to show the great depth of love God shares with us to share with others. Friendship, it can be argued, is one of the highest forms of love. Because it is totally free.
God shows us this great depth of friendship in Jesus Christ. We are no longer slaves. We know what’s going on, God has told us already in Christ. And what did he tell us: that love—true, virtuous love—involves sacrifice of self.
I choose my friends and they choose me. I didn’t choose my family. And when I have made a choice on a spouse, that choice cannot be undone. But friendship, I can continue to choose or not to choose. It’s a constant choice of laying down my life and of opening it at the same time.
-As you think about your friendships, who are they and why? Would you classify them more as friends of utility, pleasure, or virtue?
-Friendship takes intentionality and commitment just like any loving relationship. Although age and stage often bring people together for periods of time, is there anybody in college that you want to take with you to the next stage?
-Friendship cannot just be scheduled like going to the gym or doing homework but needs time and vulnerability. So your friends better be cool because you are going to have to spend a lot of time with them. If they aren’t or those types of conversations make them nervous, maybe it’s time to think differently.
|Nick van Santen grew up in the mountains of Idaho, spent three years studying theology in New Jersey (Princeton), and pastors college students attending the University of California at Berkeley.|
|Read more posts by Nick van Santen|