Worth Reading, January 26, 2012

by Steve

Here is a great post on Jesus-Centered friendship by Justin Holcomb. I hope it’s an encouragement to you.

What Jesus-Centered Friendship Looks Like
By Justin Holcomb

Friendship seems like such a natural part of human life that we probably don’t stop to think about what it is and where it came from. Yet understanding why God created friendship is important for understanding ourselves and God.

Friendship and the Trinity
In systematic theology, the concept of friendship arises most frequently in discussions of the Trinity. God is a Trinitarian being of three persons existing in joyful community, love, and friendship. Each member of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—loves and serves the others and work together in common purpose. It is out of this perfect community God has enjoyed from all eternity that he created us for friendship with one another and, through Jesus, makes us his friends.

Augustine on Friendship
Augustine, perhaps better than any other theologian, captures the essence of friendship in a practical, everyday manner in his work, Confessions:

To make conversation, to share a joke, to perform mutual acts of kindness, to read together well-written books, to share in trifling and in serious matters, to disagree though without animosity—just as a person debates with himself—and in the very rarity of disagreement to find the salt of normal harmony, to teach each other something or to learn from one another, to long with impatience for those absent, to welcome them with gladness on their arrival.

For Augustine, loving friendship isn’t just a feeling, but leads to concrete expressions of love: “These and other signs come from the heart of those who love and are loved and are expressed through the mouth, through the tongue, through the eyes, and a thousand gestures of delight, acting as fuel to set our minds on fire.” He recognizes the virtues of friendship to create unity as well: “Human friendship is also a nest of love and gentleness because of the unity it brings about between many souls.”

Augustine sees human friendship as pointing to a higher friendship with God. Matthew Levering writes,

As Augustine comes to appreciate… the practice of the ascent of the soul to friendship with the divine Trinity occurs through the friendship in and with Jesus Christ by the action of the Holy Spirit. This friendship takes effective shape in the community of believers, the church as the mystical Body of Christ united by her sacramental participation through the Holy Spirit in Christ’s saving work… The goal of the Trinity’s work in history, then, is to draw us into contemplative friendship with the Trinity. This contemplative friendship, Augustine is clear, cannot fully be enjoyed prior to the vision of God, eternal life. Yet in faith the first fruits have arrived.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners
Jesus Christ is the concrete expression of God’s love for us. However, Jesus Christ, completely different from us in his righteousness and holiness, brought us to the table of God’s friendship through his reconciling work.

“The gospel flips normal conceptions of friendship on their heads, for typically, friendship is based on compatibility.

”Jesus also turns the conventions of friendship upside down by treating others in unexpected ways. He says,

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12–14).

One scholar writes:

The rule of Luke 14:12 conflicts with the conventions of antiquity by rejecting the principle of reciprocity (cf. Matthew 5:46–47). Jesus breaks down the wall of an exclusiveness of fellowship and love. In Luke 14:12 friendship and table fellowship are correlative (cf. 15:6, 9, 29). The fact that Jesus eats with publicans and sinners is the basis of the charge that he is [a friend of sinners] (7:34). In fact, he loves sinners and is loved by them, as the washing of his feet, the kiss, and the anointing show (7:37 ff.).

Friendship and Mission
Theologian Jürgen Moltmann argued that “friend” should become one of the church’s titles for Jesus alongside “prophet,” “priest,” and “king.” There should be a direct connection between Jesus’ friendship with believers and our open friendship with the rest of his body, his church.

Jesus tells his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). As Peter Slade writes in his book, Open Friendship in a Closed Society, “This is no easy designation. Jesus indicates the import and cost of such a statement by linking friendship with the greatest possible human love for, as Jesus explains, ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15:13).”

We learn true friendship by looking to the example of Jesus, who gave up his life to make his enemies—us—into his friends.