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Friendship.

A revised and expanded version of this page appears in my book "New Skins for Old Wine"

Contents

The Contemporary View

In this age Friendship is generally judged to be ephemeral, expendable, a matter of convenience and of no account compared to familial ties, as witnessed by the aphorisms "blood is thicker than water" and "charity begins at home". It is rarely if ever given any recognition or status by the State. Typically, children have friends, adults (especially, and sadly, married men) generally do not. Adult men typically have "mates", which are not at all the same species. People will pursue (potential) lovers from continent to continent and give up lucrative employment to be with others with whom they have a sexual (romantic) involvement.  The idea of doing so to maintain contact with a friend would typically be judged to be eccentric at least.

In practice, the Church entirely shares this view. She gives high regard to familial ties, crucially and celebrating the central bond in the public liturgy now associated with the Sacrament of Marriage. In my experience, even when the Scripture readings at Mass directly address the subject of friendship, it is typically replaced by love, and this is rapidly restricted to signify either disinterested charity or romantic involvement. Similarly, in typical Church publications. Whereas the family has been proclaimed to be the foundation of society [Gaudiem et Spes #52], and this with no little justice, the more fundamental virtue of friendship has been neglected. Without the leaven of friendship, the boundaries of the family become the fracture lines of society. The very word "insula" means both "family home" and "isolationist". Friendship is the only basis on which a strong civic society can be built. Sadly, the Church has no more time for friendship than does secular society.

Strangely, friendship is given much greater regard in many works of contemporary fiction and drama: "Dances with Wolves";  "The Shawshank Redemption"; "The Lord of the Rings"; "Star Trek"; "Babylon V"; "Will and Grace"; "Farscape" and "Dawson's Creek" are examples that spring to mind. The tension between this instinct to uphold friendship as of profound importance and its popular denigration is made especially clear in the way in which the ending of the film "Dances with Wolves" differs from its literary original. In the book, the hero (and his wife) remain with the tribe of Native Americans that adopted them and so he stays with his "best friend", its Medicine Man. In the film he leaves the tribe, to the obvious distress of the Medicine Man, but this decision is portrayed as the only sensible option open to him. Even in the Lord of the Rings, the friendship of Frodo and Samwise proves to be of less importance than Sam's concern to set up home and start a family in the Shire. Perhaps Tolkein felt compelled to this resolution of the situation by his Catholicism. Even so, it is strongly hinted that in the end, Sam and Frodo are reunited as Ring Bearers in the Ultimate West of Faeryland.

A Platonic Perspective

Plato knew none of this. For him marriage was a social necessity, in order to procreate children to populate the state. However, significant relationships were invariably between men, whether these had any sexual content or not. Largely this was because Plato generally accounted women as intellectually and spiritually inferior to men (interestingly, he repeatedly expresses exactly the opposite view in his masterwork "The Republic" and also "The Laws").

Plato suggests that friendship is the basis of justice, the true foundation of politics:

"Well then, Alchiabiades, what about a city? What is it that is present and what will be absent when a city is in a better condition and getting better management and treatment?"
"The way that I look at it, Socrates, mutual friendship will be present and hatred and insurrection will be absent."
[Plato: Alchibiades 126b,c]
He tended to believe that the basis of friendship was a certain similarity of persons: 
"When two people are virtuous and alike, or when they are equals, we say that one is a friend of the other; but we also speak of the poor man's friendship for the man who has grown rich, even though they are poles apart. In either case, when the friendship is particularly ardent, we call it love." [Plato: Laws 837a]
Yet admitted that this was not always the case; as indeed was true of the ill-fated friendship of Socrates for Alchibiades:
"And a violent and stormy friendship it is when a man is attracted to someone widely different to himself, and only seldom do we see it reciprocated." [Plato: Laws 837b] 
He was generally inclined towards the positive value of overtly homosexual relationships, especially as a bulwark against tyranny: He explained his perception that homosexuality is regarded as shameful by barbarians in the following way:
"In .... places .... which are subject to the barbarians .... the love of youths shares an evil repute with philosophy and gymnastics, because they are inimical to tyranny.  The interests of such rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit and that there should be no strong bonds of friendship or attachments among them, which such love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire. Our Athenian tyrants learned this by experience: for the love of Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had a strength which undid their power.
Therefore, the ill-repute into which these attachments have fallen is to be ascribed to the poor character of those who condemn them: that is to say, to the self-seeking of the governors and the cowardice of the governed. On the other hand, the indiscriminate honour which they are given in some countries is attributable to the mental indolence of their legislators.
In our own country a far better principle prevails, but .... its description is not straightforward. For open loves are held to be more honourable than secret ones, and the love of the noblest and highest sort of person, even if they are not so handsome, is especially honourable." [Plato: the Symposeum]
Nevertheless, he disinguishes between a spiritual love of friendship based on "a mature and genuine desire of soul for soul" and a carnal lust "which shows no consideration for the beloved's character and disposition."[Plato: Laws 837c] and taught that the noblest and most valuable form of love knew nothing of physiological infatuation
"Someone who loved you [rather than just what you posess] would love your soul" [Plato: Alchibiades 131c].
Interestingly, for Plato, the value of love could be judged by the offspring that it produced. This principle seems to be apposite to heterosexual romanto-erotic and domestic relationships; but he saw it as hugely favouring the love of two men (friends), for the fruit that would certainly spring from this love would be spiritual progeny of wisdom, virtue and intellectual discovery.
"You are as prone to love as the sun is to shine; it being the most delightful and natural employment of the soul of man: without which you are dark and miserable. Consider therefore the extent of Love, its vigour and excellency. For certainly he that delights not in Love makes vain the universe, and is of necessity to himself the greatest burden. The whole world ministers to you as the theatre of your Love. It sustains you and all objects, that you may continue to love them. Without which it were better for you to have no being. That violence wherewith sometimes a man doteth upon one creature is but a little spark of that love, even towards all, which lurketh in his nature. We are made to love, both to satisfy the necessity of our active nature, and to answer the beauties in every creature. By Love our Souls are married and solder'd to those of other creatures: and it is our duty like God to be united to them all. We must love them infinitely, but in God, and for God; and God in them: namely all His excellencies manifested in them. When we dote upon the perfections and beauties of some one creature, we do not love that too much, but other things too little. Never was anything in this world loved too much but many things have been loved in a false way: and all in too short a measure."
[Thomas Traherne(1636-74) "Centuries of Meditations"Ed. Bertram Dobell (1908)]
Plato also taught that it was possible for human beings to become friends of God:
"But what if man had eyes to see true beauty - divine beauty, I mean, pure and dear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colors and vanities of human life - thither looking, and holding converse with true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of      the soul, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may." [Symposium]

John Chrysostom on Friendship

He who loves, ought so to love, that if he were asked even for his soul, and it were possible, he would not refuse it. I do not say "if he were asked," but so that he would even run to present him with the gift. For nothing, nothing can be sweeter than such love; nothing will fall out there that is grievous. Truly "a faithful friend is the medicine of life." (Ecclus. vi. 16.) Truly "a faithful friend is a strong defense." (Ib. 14) For what will not a genuine friend perform? What pleasure will he not afford? what benefit? what security? Though you should name infinite treasures, none of them is comparable to a genuine friend. And first let us speak of the great delight of friendship itself. A friend rejoices at seeing his friend, and expands with joy. He is knit to him with an union of soul that affords unspeakable pleasure. And if he only calls him to remembrance, he is roused in mind, and transported.

I speak of genuine friends, men of one soul, who would even die for each other, who love fervently. Do not, thinking of those who barely love, who are table-companions, mere nominal friends, suppose that my discourse is refuted. If any one has a friend such as I speak of, he will acknowledge the truth of my words. He, though he sees his friend every day, is not satiated. For him he prays for the same things as for himself. I know one, who calling upon holy men in behalf of his friend, besought them to pray first for him, and then for himself. So dear a thing is a good friend, that times and places are loved on his account. For as bodies that are luminous spread their radiance to the neighboring places, so also friends leave a grace of their own in the places to which they have come. And oftentimes in the absence of friends, as we have stood on those places, we have wept, and remembering the days which we passed together, have sighed. It is not possible to represent by speech, how great a pleasure the intercourse with friends affords. But those only know, who have experience. From a friend we may both ask a favor, and receive one without suspicion. When they enjoin anything upon us, then we feel indebted to them; but when they are slow to do this, then we are sorrowful. We have nothing which is not theirs. Often despising all things here, on their account we are not willing to depart hence; and they are more longed for by us than the light.

For, in good truth, a friend is more to be longed for than the light; I speak of a genuine one. And wonder not: for it were better for us that the sun should be extinguished, than that we should be deprived of friends; better to live in darkness, than to be without friends. And I will tell you why. Because many who see the sun are in darkness, but they can never be even in tribulation, who abound in friends. I speak of spiritual friends, who prefer nothing to friendship. Such was Paul, who would willingly have given his own soul, even though not asked, nay would have plunged into hell for them.With so ardent a disposition ought we to love.

I wish to give you an example of friendship. Friends, that is, friends according to Christ, surpass fathers and sons. For tell me not of friends of the present day, since this good thing also has past away with others. But consider, in the time of the Apostles, I speak not of the chief men, but of the believers themselves generally; "all," he says, "were of one heart and soul: and not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own ...and distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need." (Acts iv. 32, 35) There were then no such words as "mine" and "thine." This is friendship, that a man should not consider his goods his own, but his neighbor's, that his possessions belong to another; that he should be as careful of his friend's soul, as of his own; and the friend likewise.

And where is it possible, somebody says, that such an one should be found? Because we have not the will; for it is possible. If it were not possible, neither would Christ have commanded it; he would not have discoursed so much concerning love. A great thing is friendship, and how great, no one can learn, and no discourse represent, but experience itself. It is this that has caused the heresies. This makes the Greeks to be Greeks. He who loves does not wish to command, nor to rule, but is rather obliged when he is ruled and commanded. He wishes rather to bestow a favor than to receive one, for he loves, and is so affected, as not having satisfied his desire. He is not so much gratified when good is done to him, as when he is doing good. For he wishes to oblige, rather than to be indebted to him; or rather he wishes both to be beholden to him, and to have him his debtor. And he wishes both to bestow favors, and not to seem to bestow them, but himself to be the debtor. I think that perhaps many of you do not understand what has been said. He wishes to be the first in bestowing benefits, and not to seem to be the first, but to be returning a kindness. Which God also has done in the case of men. He purposed to give His own Son for us; but that He might not seem to bestow a favor, but to be indebted to us, He commanded Abraham to offer his son, that whilst doing a great kindness, He might seem to do nothing great.

For when indeed there is no love, we both upbraid men with our kindnesses and we exaggerate little ones; but when there is love, we both conceal them and wish to make the great appear small, that we may not seem to have our friend for a debtor, but ourselves to be debtors to him, in having him our debtor. I know that the greater part do not understand what is said, and the cause is, that I am speaking of a thing which now dwells in heaven. As therefore if I were speaking of any plant growing in India, of which no one had ever had any experience, nospeech would avail to represent it, though I should utter ten thousand words: so also now whatever things I say, I say in vain, for no one will be able to understand me. This is a plant that is planted in heaven, having for its branches not heavy-clustered pearls, but a virtuous life, much more acceptable than they. What pleasure would you speak of, the foul and the honorable? But that of friendship excelleth them all, though you should speak of the sweetness of honey. For that satiates, but a friend never does, so long as he is a friend; nay, the desire of him rather increases, and such pleasure never admits of satiety. And a friend is sweeter than the present life. Many therefore after the death of their friends have not wished to live any longer. With a friend one would bear even banishment; but without a friend would not choose to inhabit even his own country. With a friend even poverty is tolerable, but without him both health and riches are intolerable. He has another self: I am straitened, because I cannot instance by an example. For I should in that case make it appear that what has been said is much less than it ought to be.

And these things indeed are so here. But from God the reward of friendship is so great, that it cannot be expressed. He gives a reward, that we may love one another, the thing for which we owe a reward. "Pray," He says, "and receive a reward," for that for which we owe a reward, because we ask for good things. "For that which you ask," He says, "receive a reward. Fast, and receive a reward. Be virtuous, and receive a reward," though you rather owe a reward. But as fathers, when they have made their children virtuous, then further give them a reward; for they are debtors, because they have afforded them a pleasure; so also God acts. "Receive a reward," He says, "if thou be virtuous, for thou delightest thy Father, and for this I owe thee a reward. But if thou be evil, not so: for thou provokest Him that begot thee." Let us not then provoke God, but let us delight Him, that we may obtain the kingdom of Heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory and the strength, world without end. Amen. [John Chrysostom, Homily II on 1 Thessalonians]

The Teaching of St Thomas Aquinas

For St Thomas, Friendship is the highest form of love. He shows that charity, which is the paramount virtue is a species of friendship. Because friendship is based on a clear recognition and acknowledgement of objective mutual advantage, it necessarily involves benevolence. The lover wishes the good of the beloved, because he knows that his own good depends upon and is advanced by the well-being of his beloved.
"For a friend is another myself," [In Ethic., lib. 8, l. 1 n. 6].
"The lover stands in relation to that which he loves, as though it were himself or part of himself."[I-II, Q26#2]
Moreover, he argues in Summa Theologica [II(2) Q27#7] that there is a sense in which one's love for a friend is of more account and virtuous than disinterested love for one's neighbour (or enemy!), because
"a friend is both better and more closely united to us, so that he is a more suitable matter of love and consequently the act of love that passes over this matter, is better, and therefore its opposite is worse, for it is worse to hate a friend than an enemy".
Moreover, he observes that:
"just as the same fire acts with greater force on what is near than on what is distant, so too, charity loves with greater fervour those who are united to us than those who are far removed; and in this respect the love of friends, considered in itself, is more ardent and better than the love of one's enemy".
Following Plato, he asserts that:
"Society is maintained through friendship...  so let legislators do their utmost to preserve friendship among citizens... to avoid dissensions; for concord is assimilated to friendship" [In Ethic., lib. 8, l. 1 n. 5]
He argues that the ultimate vocation of Man is to become the Friend of God, [II(2) Q27#1] for to be united with another spirit in love is what Friendship is all about:
"Yet neither does well-wishing suffice for friendship, for a certain mutual love is requisite, since friendship is between friend and friend: and this well-wishing is founded on some kind of communication. Accordingly, since there is a communication between man and God, inasmuch as He communicates His happiness to us, some kind of friendship must needs be based on this same communication, of which it is written [1 Cor. 1:9]: 'God is faithful: by Whom you are called unto the fellowship of His Son'. The love which is based on this communication, is charity: wherefore it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God."

Some Objectivist Thoughts

Friendship is the ultimate in rational self-interest. Whereas romantic love does not serve to prolong, establish or strengthen the existence of the lover, Friendship certainly does. Friendship is a species of "free trade" where two (or more!) people recognize in each other characteristics that are of mutual benefit to their lives and so freely and enthusiastically co-operate to their common benefit.  The value that is recognized may be more or less obvious. It may range from wisdom; experience; to a certain skill or useful aptitude (such as the ability to be a good listener!)  Friends are those who (explicitly or implicitly) recognize in each other a remarkable alignment of many such mutual benefits.

In contrast, the central "good" or "benefit" associated with sexual bonding is the procreation of offspring - which "Nature", "the Species" or "the Selfish Genome" is very interested in, but which is of no rational account to the individual whatsoever (I except the notion that children have an obligation to care for their aged parents, it is not generally speaking in their own interest to do so - though they certainly have some species of reciprocal obligation to do so, given the enormous investment made in them by their parents!)  Moreover, "being in love" is quite clearly irrational and a form of  mental derangement, as any one who has experienced the phenomenon will testify, though some approvingly!

"The world is best enjoyed, and most immediately, while we converse blessedly and wisely with men. I am sure it were desirable that they could give and receive infinite treasures: and perhaps they can. For whomsoever I love as myself, to him I give myself and all my happiness, which I think is infinite: and I receive him and all his happiness. Yes, in him I receive God, for God delighteth me for being his blessedness: so that a man obligeth me infinitely that maketh himself happy; and by making himself happy, giveth me himself and all his happiness." [Thomas Traherne (1636-74) "Centuries of Meditations", Ed Bertram Dobell (1908)]

C.S. Lewis on friendship

As someone whose theology's early foundation was the work of C.S. Lewis, it pains me to write this section. I remember, many years ago, picking up some book about C.S. Lewis' work and finding in it a densely argued critique of his analysis and exposition of friendship. This met with an instinctive blast of hostility from me: "How dare anyone criticize my hero!" I forcefully replaced the book on its shelf and moved on. Now I find myself doing exactly what I originally deplored. The text in question is chapter four of Lewis' monograph "The Four Loves".

In summary, Lewis argues that:

  • Friendship is rare and not experienced by many people.
  • It is the least natural of all the "loves", having no biological (we'd now say "selfish gene") basis.
  • It is un-necessary for the prolongation of the species or the continuance of society.
    • On a simple biological level, I agree.
    • On a sociological level, I strongly disagree.
    • I believe that friendship (not family) is the proper basis of all society.
    • Society is inevitable and should be for the good of the individual, so friendship is entirely natural.
    • Those capable of friendship have an advantage over those that are incapable of it.
  • It is based and defined by a common interest, conviction, insight or taste.
    • This is a truly horrid idea!
    • While a friendship may start for such a reason, just as a romance can start because of external beauty: this does not mean that the initial excuse or rational for the friendship continues as its perpetual basis!
    • In my experience, friendships deepen and widen and evolve and are based on a developing mutual benevolence.
  • Indeed it is somewhat inimical to the commonality, as it defines conspiracies to which others do not belong.
    • With this I can only agree only if "the commonality" is to be identified with "the establishment".
  • It is tranquil and rational rather than emotional.
  • It has no relationship with homosexuality.
    • This is a key idea for Lewis.
      • It is interesting that he spends a good while trying to establish it.
      • For Lewis there is a clear delineation of the "four loves".
      • For me there is none.
      • For me all love, worthy of the name, is love.
    • Obviously, Lewis' thesis is true!
      • Most of my male friends are not homosexual.
      • My two closest male friends are not homosexual.
      • My male friends have other male friends who are not homosexual.
      • I have heterosexual female friends.
      • I would be very happy to have a lesbian as a friend.
  • It is not introverted: friends don't talk about their friendship.
    • Well I do with my friends, but obviously I don't count as I am gay!
  • It is not jealous: being extensive, rather than exclusive.
    • There is no reason why eros or any of the other forms of love should be either!
    • Society expects eros to be exclusive and jealous, so it becomes so.
    • Just as the fact that a mother loves one child does not mean that she doesn't love another, the fact that a lover loves one beloved does not mean that he do not love another; and there is no objective justification for either beloved to feel jealousy of the other!
    • I can be jealous of other friends of my friends: not that there is any virtue in this!
  • Friends are always willing to welcome others into their fellowship.
    • I largely agree, but lovers welcome offspring into the family that their love creates.
  • Friends do not need to be needed by their friends.
    • I do!
  • Friends have no concern with each other's person or circumstances.
  • Friends are not allies, except accidentally and temporarily.
  • Friends are not concerned with each other as such, but only with their common interest.
  • Metaphorically, friends stand shoulder to shoulder not face to face.
    • This is an inhumane set of ideas.
    • It incompatible with the witness of the Old Testament.
    • Thomas Aquinas teaches that friendship is the highest form of benevolence.
    • I well remember telling Paul Hammond that my friendship for him was based on my goodwill towards him rather than the fact that he might become a Catholic, still less on our common taste in music!
    • My best friend, John Sackett, and I have hugely different perspectives, though we are both Christians. I believe we remain friends because we are correctives for each other, not because we have a shared vision.
  • It is almost impossible for men and women to be friends, because their interests differ so widely.
    • Lewis was writing in the 1960's, but even so his opinions regarding women verge on the misogynist!
    • Certainly, I find there to be no truth in this, whatsoever.
    • Generally speaking, I think that women are better at friendship (as I understand it) than men; both with each other and with men.
  • Friendship is the most spiritual love and so the most dangerous.
    • I agree that Friendship is the highest form of love, but not that it is the most dangerous.
    • Whenever has Friendship been the cause of tragedy or grave evil?
    • Eros is frequently implicated in grave sin, as it tends to make people reckless.
    • Charity is often subverted into conceit.
  • Friendship might therefore be easily mistaken for something greater, which it is not.
  • This is why it is not generally used by Scripture as an image of man's relationship with God.
    • This is absurd.
    • As we have already seen, Thomas Aquinas teaches that "charity is the friendship of man for God".

    • The matter of Scriptural teaching on Friendship is dealt with extensively below.

William Penn on Friendship

"FRIENDSHIP is a union of spirits, a marriage of  hearts, and the bond thereof virtue. There can be no friendship where there is no  freedom. Friendship loves a free air, and will not be penned  up in straight and narrow enclosures. It will speak  freely and act so too; and take nothing ill where no ill  is meant, nay, where it is, it will easily forgive, and  forget too, upon small acknowledgements. Friends are true twins in soul; they sympathize in everything, and have the same love and aversion. One is not happy without the other; nor can either of them be miserable alone. As if they could change bodies they take their turns in pain as well as in pleasure; relieving one another in their most adverse conditions. What one enjoys the other cannot want. A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend un-changeably." [William Penn: "Fruits of Solitude"]

St Maximos the Confessor on Friendship

"Nothing can be compared to a faithful friend. This is because he regards his friend's misfortunes as his own and supports him in hardships until his death."  [Maximos the Confessor: "The Four Hundren Chapters on Love" #93]

"The friends of Christ love everyone sincerely but are not loved by everyone. The friends of Christ maintain the continuity of love until the end. The friends of the world, on the contrary, maintain theirs until they clash with each other over the world's goods. A faithful friend is a strong defense, for when his friend is prospering he is a good counselor and sympathetic collaborator, and when he is in distress, he is his sincere supporter and most sympathetic defender. Many people have said much about love, but only in seeking it among Christ's disciples will you find it, for only they have true love, the teacher of love, of whom it is written, 'If I have prophecy and know all mysteries and have all knowledge but do not have love, it profits me nothing.' Therefore the one who possesses love possesses God himself, since God is love." [Maximos the Confessor: "The Four Hundren Chapters on Love" #98-100]

A mediation on Friendship

The following is taken from "Also Sprache Zarathustra", by Nietzche.
"One is always too many about me"- thinketh the anchorite. "Always once one- that maketh two in the long run!"  I and me are always too earnestly in conversation: how could it be endured, if there were not a friend?  The friend of the anchorite is always the third one: the third one is the cork which preventeth the conversation of the two sinking into the depth. Ah! there are too many depths for all anchorites. Therefore, do they long so much for a friend and for his elevation. Our faith in others betrayeth wherein we would fain have faith in ourselves. Our longing for a friend is our betrayer. And often with our love we want merely to overleap envy. And often we attack and make ourselves enemies, to conceal that we are vulnerable.

"Be at least mine enemy!"- thus speaketh the true reverence, which doth not venture to solicit friendship. If one would have a friend, then must one also be willing to wage war for him: and in order to wage war, one must be capable of being an enemy. One ought still to honour the enemy in one's friend. Canst thou go nigh unto thy friend, and not go over to him?  In one's friend one shall have one's best enemy. Thou shalt be closest unto him with thy heart when thou withstandest him.

Thou wouldst wear no raiment before thy friend? It is in honour of thy friend that thou showest thyself to him as  thou art? But he wisheth thee to the devil on that account!  He who maketh no secret of himself shocketh: so much reason have ye to fear nakedness! Aye, if ye were gods, ye could then be ashamed of clothing! Thou canst not adorn thyself fine enough for thy friend; for thou shalt be unto him an arrow and a longing for the Superman.

Sawest thou ever thy friend asleep- to know how he looketh? What is usually the countenance of thy friend? It is thine own countenance, in a coarse and imperfect mirror. Sawest thou ever thy friend asleep? Wert thou not dismayed at thy friend looking so? O my friend, man is something that hath to be surpassed. In divining and keeping silence shall the friend be a master: not everything must thou wish to see. Thy dream shall disclose unto thee what thy friend doeth when awake.

Let thy pity be a divining: to know first if thy friend wanteth pity. Perhaps he loveth in thee the unmoved eye, and the look of eternity. Let thy pity for thy friend be hid under a hard shell; thou shalt bite out a tooth upon it. Thus will it have delicacy and sweetness. Art thou pure air and solitude and bread and medicine to thy friend? Many a one cannot loosen his own fetters, but is nevertheless his friend's emancipator.

Art thou a slave? Then thou canst not be a friend. Art thou a tyrant? Then thou canst not have friends. Far too long hath there been a slave and a tyrant concealed in woman. On that account woman is not yet capable of friendship: she knoweth only love. In woman's love there is injustice and blindness to all she doth not love. And even in woman's conscious love, there is still always surprise and lightning and night, along with the light. As yet woman is not capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or at the best, cows. As yet woman is not capable of friendship. But tell me, ye men, who of you is capable of friendship?

Oh! your poverty, ye men, and your sordidness of soul! As much as ye give to your friend, will I give even to my foe, and will not have become poorer thereby. There is comradeship: may there be friendship!

     Thus spake Zarathustra.

While I do not agree with some of what Nietzche writes here, on the whole I find this to be a profound, poignant and accurate account of friendship:
Our faith in others betrayeth wherein we would fain have faith in ourselves. Our longing for a friend is our betrayer. And often with our love we want merely to overleap envy. And often we attack and make ourselves enemies, to conceal that we are vulnerable.
A friend can help supply for our own personal inadequacy.  As long as we are honest with ourselves this is fine, but the danger is that we will not relish admitting our own need and violence will be directed against the friend as a smoke-screen in order to avoid admitting our own need to ourselves.
"Be at least mine enemy!" - thus speaketh the true reverence, which doth not venture to solicit friendship. If one would have a friend, then must one also be willing to wage war for him: and in order to wage war, one must be capable of being an enemy. One ought still to honour the enemy in one's friend. Canst thou go nigh unto thy friend, and not go over to him?  In one's friend one shall have one's best enemy. Thou shalt be closest unto him with thy heart when thou withstandest him.
This is the teaching we will shortly meet in [Pro 27: 5-7]. The true friend will criticize not flatter; oppose not pander to one's foolishness; witness to the truth, not say what one thinks one wants to hear - even at the risk of loosing that friendship. For, as high-lighted in an episode of the TV situation comedy "Will and Grace", not to risk loosing the friendship at the cost of not being faithful to it is to destroy it directly.
Thou canst not adorn thyself fine enough for thy friend; for thou shalt be unto him an arrow and a longing for the Superman.
We are all called to be a sign of contradiction for our friends; to challenge each other from our lethargies, to lift our eyes up from our the domestic hum-drum to the horizons of spiritual possibilities; to the calling we each have to Divinization, Union with God and becoming co-heirs with Christ of the Kingdom! There is no end to our possibilities, if we are open to what they may be. Don't say that you can't interpret dreams or prophecy! It is God's grace that releases such possibilities; our only role is to get in the way! It is the job of the friend to coax one ever onward and upward.
Let thy pity be a divining: to know first if thy friend wanteth pity. Perhaps he loveth in thee the unmoved eye, and the look of eternity. Let thy pity for thy friend be hid under a hard shell; thou shalt bite out a tooth upon it. Thus will it have delicacy and sweetness. Art thou pure air and solitude and bread and medicine to thy friend? Many a one cannot loosen his own fetters, but is nevertheless his friend's emancipator.
Sometimes sympathy and support are what is required, sometimes not! Sometimes what is required is a certain harshness, a willingness to correct or challenge or deny. Sometimes one can help another, by one's distance from the situation or dilemma in which he is caught up, whilst being unable to help oneself. While it is futile for "the blind to lead the blind" or "to attempt to remove a splinter from the eye of another with a beam of wood in one's own", we can often help each other if only we have the courage to make the attempt.
Art thou a slave? Then thou canst not be a friend. Art thou a tyrant? Then thou canst not have friends.
Who is the slave?  Someone who is concerned to satisfy the desires of others; not their own. Who is the tyrant? Someone who wishes to impose their will on others. The slave; the sycophant; the hypocrite, these cannot be trusted as friends, because they will not speak truth - even the truth as they believe it - because they are concerned only to please others. They have no concern for truth or substance, but only pretence and appearance. The tyrant; the conceited, the hauty; these are not interested in having friends, because they cannot countenance opposition or challenge. They have no concern for objective reality. They think that by asserting their will sufficiently they can change reality, but as Ayn Rand so graphically puts it "A" is "A" and always will be. The slave and tyrant are made for each other, and for their mutually assured destruction.
Far too long hath there been a slave and a tyrant concealed in woman. On that account woman is not yet capable of friendship: she knoweth only love. In woman's love there is injustice and blindness to all she doth not love. And even in woman's conscious love, there is still always surprise and lightning and night, along with the light. As yet woman is not capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or at the best, cows. As yet woman is not capable of friendship. But tell me, ye men, who of you is capable of friendship?
I don't think that it is right of Nietzche to attribute to "Woman" this human deficiency. Perhaps he meant "romantic partners". If so, his words become fair comment. Romantic love is often blind to failings in the beloved, and would justify any amount of injustice in order to achieve its objectives. Similarly parental love. What evil wouldn't a father countenance in order to save the life of his child? All types of familial love are essentially biological, irrational and amoral in their basis. The challenge to all of us is to rise above this to the level of rational self-interest and mutual regard and help. Sometimes the friend has to sacrifice his friend for the sake of what they both hold dearly to be true; and the friend would think less of him if he did not do so.
Oh! your poverty, ye men, and your sordidness of soul! As much as ye give to your friend, will I give even to my foe, and will not have become poorer thereby. There is comradeship: may there be friendship!
This echoes the teaching of Christ, when He warns that we should not just be generous to "our friends".  What we typically think (in our bankruptcy) of appropriate behaviour towards a friend, is in reality only appropriate for all and sundry; indeed those who have our ill in their hearts! True friendship demands so much more.

Marriage and Friendship

Without a profound appreciation of friendship, no human relationship can have value or stand. It is significant that marriages regularly transform into friendships, and lovers often come to speak of each other as "best friends". I conjecture that those originally sexual relationships that are temporally successful are exactly those that manage to transform themselves from an irrational and self-destructive eroticism (as favoured by the population at large) and/or self sacrificial romanticism(as favoured and advocated by the contemporary Catholic Magisterium) into rational self-affirming friendship. According to an email correspondant:
"I have often thought that the most important thing in the world is friendship; for friendship is a love that comes to us as a gift, and though it is passionate it is also wise. I've never had many friends, but I cherish all the more the few friends I have. They are precious to me. I have never had a sexual relationship, never been "in love"; but I have been loved, because I have had friends. And in my experience, the only romantic relationships that last are those that either began in friendship or find their way there. Perhaps one of the reasons why friendship is so denigrated in contemporary culture is simply because it is omnipresent, mingled in all the other loves to a greater or lesser degree (and thereby ennobling and strengthening them)." [April 2004]
I suggest that a conjugal love not based on friendship, but rather on the passing phenomenon of physiological sexual attraction is sub-human and unworthy of the christian faithful [Gaudiem et Spes #49]. It would not be sacramental of the relationship of Christ and the Church. It would be an incontinent union, an affront to justice and the Holy Spirit.
"First of all, nature itself by an instinct implanted in both sexes impels them to such companionship, and this is further encouraged by the hope of mutual assistance in bearing more easily the discomforts of life and the infirmities of old age." [Catechism of the Oecumenical Council of Trent: "On Marriage"]
"By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God's decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises.....
This conjugal faith .... blooms more freely, more beautifully and more nobly, when it is rooted in that more excellent soil, the love of husband and wife which pervades all the duties of married life and holds pride of place in Christian marriage. For matrimonial faith demands that husband and wife be joined in an especially holy and pure love, not as adulterers love each other, but as Christ loved the Church ....
This outward expression of love in the home demands not only mutual help but must go further; must have as its primary purpose that man and wife help each other day by day in forming and perfecting themselves in the interior life, so that through their partnership in life they may advance ever more and more in virtue, and above all that they may grow in true love toward God and their neighbour ....
This mutual moulding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof." [Pius XI: "Casti Connubii" #7, 23, 24]
Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote of his intimate friend Ambrose St John:
"From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable... As far as this world was concerned I was his first and last."
When Ambrose St John died in May, 1875 John Henry Newman was undone. He said that the loss was the "greatest affliction I have had in my life" and then went further, writing: 
"I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's... but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine." 
A year later, Newman declared: 
"I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John's grave - and I give this as my last, my imperative will."

The Witness of the Old Testament

The Old Testament is replete with teaching on Friendship. The Wisdom literature deals with the subject explicitly. Proverbs first cautions that some "friends" are not true friends, but that a true friend "sticks closer than a brother" [Prov 18:24]. The wise man  should value the rebuke of a true friend, which will be to good purpose, and should despise the flattery [Prov 27: 5-7], which comes from the mouth of an enemy. The wise man will be faithful to his true friend, who will stand by him in the day of adversity [Prov 27:10].  Sirach expands the teaching of Proverbs [Sir 6:5-17] counselling that a friend should be accepted as such only after much testing. He says that a faithful friend is "a sturdy shelter", "the elixir of life" and "a most precious treasure", something beyond all valuing of excellence.  It is suggested that one reward for fearing the Lord is that a man will have (a) faithful friend(s). He also councils against forsaking an old friend, because friendship matures like wine [Sir 9:10]. He says that betrayal by a friend is "grief to the death" [Sir 37:2].

In his anguish at being betrayed by an intimate friend [Ps 54:12-15] the psalmist describes such a one as his "equal", with whom he "used to hold sweet converse" and "within God's house .... walked in fellowship".  The word friend occurs frequently in the book of Job, generally with reference to Job's self-styled "friends"; but on one occasion [Job 6:14] there is a proper use of the term: "He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty", a most stern judgement.

The book of Wisdom tells us that one becomes God's friend (and his prophet!) by gaining wisdom [Wis 7:14,27], because there is nothing that God approves of more highly than the wise man [Wis 7:27-28]. Similarly, the Psalmist tells us that [Ps 24:14] "the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and he makes known to them His covenant".  I am sure that Jesus had this text in mind when He told his Apostles that they were His friends.
Of course, there are also examples of friendships too. Eve is apparently created by God to be Adam's friend (not particularly sexual mate), because he was lonely for someone of his own level of being to interact with [Gen 2:18, 20-25]. In the parallel narrative [Gen 1:26-27], God speaks of HimSelves in the plural (as the Community of the Blessed Trinity) and determines to create Man in Their Own Image (as a Fellowship). Of course, Eve did not turn out to be a true friend.

The greatest example of a friendship in the Old Testament is, of course, that of David and Jonathan [I Sam 18:3-4; 20:4-17; 20:41-42, II Sam 1:26]. It is not fair to dwell on this, as it is so charged with passion that it is not perhaps typical of friendship. It is, of course, not clear how reciprocal the affections were between the two men. It has always struck me that Jonathan was the more ardent, and that David was seduced somewhat in spite of himself (and his undoubted womanizing nature) by the other man - yet it is manifest that he was seduced [I Sam 20:41, II Sam 1:26] and later, heart-broken. The Vulgate has an addition to this last verse in which David says of Jonathan "As the mother loveth her only son, so did I love thee". I know exactly what the author meant!

The story of Ruth and Naomi is just as touching and the commitments made just as extravagant and enduring, with no suggestion of any eroticism. Note that Ruth did all the kind of things that no sensible person would ever do for a friend: give up homeland, family and religion! [Ru 1:16,17]

The most amazing verse relating to our topic is to be found in Isaiah [Isa 41:8], where God remarks, tenderly, but almost in passing that Abraham was his friend! The significance of this statement is beyond belief. Friendship is a two-way enterprise. It is impossible for a friendship not to involve parties acting towards each other as equals (see my summary of St Thomas' teaching, above). The very idea that God should view any created being as a friend is almost scandalous! 
The way in which God appeared to Abraham as the Trinity of Mamre and declared that he had chosen Abraham [Gen 18:19] and then allowed Abraham to argue with him is indicative of the intimacy of the relationship that existed between them. The Apostle James picks up on this in his Epistle [Jas 2:23] where he stresses that Abraham's justification was through the relationship that He had with God, of faith in God's promises, open-ness in hospitality to God's gracious visitation and faithfulness to God's commands.

Perhaps the most obscure example of someone being identified as God's friend is that of Moses' father-in-law, Jethro the priest of Midian [Ex 3: 1, 18:1]. When first introduced [Ex 2:18] he is called "Reu-el", which literally means "Friend of God" [NRSV Study Bible]. I suspect that this was his title of office. It may be because Moses excercised a similar role of leadership for the Hebrews to which Jethro exercised for the Midianites, that Moses is also spoken of [Ex 33:11] as God's friend. Nevertheless, the relationship between Moses and God is clearly more intimate than that between Jethro and God, and Moses is given the singular grace of a theophany [Ex 33 17-23].

I find an aching poignancy in the account of Moses' dealings with God [Ex 32:9-10,14, Ex 33:14]. Like Abraham, Moses argues with God to show mercy for sinners and God listens to him: apparently reluctantly, almost as a petulant child! Abraham dares to rely in his argument on God having found favour in him, and asking for a favour in return!

Although Elijah is not spoken of as God's friend explicitly, he also is graced with a theophany and has a somewhat tempestuous relationship with God, though now it is generally a matter of God showing a petulant and impatient Elijah what is right, rather than the other way round!

The Witness of the Gospels

Jesus clearly had friends and valued friendship. He explicitly stated that the Apostles were his friends [Jn 15:12-17, Ps 24:14]. Jesus relished simple human intimacy with both Mary [Jn 12:3-8] and the Apostle John [Jn 13:23]. He demonstrated profound affection for Lazarus [Jn 11:35-36] and John [Jn 19:27]. Jesus called Judas Iscariot his friend, just as he was to be betrayed with a kiss [Mt 26:50].
".... a good friend provides a secure place for the heart. That's partly because [friendship] involves bonding between two people by free choice; it exists outside the bounds of duty or office or functions. (You don't have to be friends with anyone: it can't be forced.) Martha, Mary, Jesus and Lazarus apparently had a freely chosen relationship probably because they simply liked each other. Another quality of genuine friendship is that friends are guardians of one another's souls. They have enough trust that they can challenge each other. The disciples to Jesus: 'Don't go back there to Judea to Lazarus' wake; they were trying to kill you only a few days ago.' Martha and Mary to Jesus: 'Lord, if you had only been here our brother would never have died.'
[This] reminds me of a story told about the mystic Teresa of Avila. She prayed that she might have a safe trip somewhere. Instead, it was a disaster: delays, accidents, storms. When she finally got where she was going, she complained to God about how poorly God had taken care of her. 'But Teresa,' the Lord said, 'I don't treat you any differently than I do any other of my friends.' To which Teresa replied: 'Then, it's no wonder you have so few of them.' In the same way, Martha and Mary challenged their good friend Jesus. Friends can provoke each other into great deeds.....

And perhaps the ultimate test is a willingness to share burdens: 'And Jesus wept.' That sharing of burdens is the basis of any kind of grief support effort. Friendship can propel us to highest of heights, even as it pulls us down to the deepest of depths."
[Reverend William L. Fichteman: from a sermon preached for the 5th Sunday of Lent (March 13, 2005)]

I contend that, the basic human value championed by Christ, the ideal that all else should be judged by and all should aspire to was friendship [Mat 12:46-50]. Indeed, I go further and say that Jesus' preaching of the Kingdom of God should be understood in a very simple way: namely the proclamation that the solution to all the world's woes is the general adoption of mankind of the paramount virtue of friendship. Our Lord cautioned that unless we "became as children" (for whom friendship is typically second nature), we could not hope to enter the Kingdom of God [Mk 10:14-15].

I want to make myself very clear. I am saying that the core of Christianity is simply the notion that people should be friends: first with God, and then with each other. That is all. There is  nothing else of worth. The whole of the rest of the doctrinal structure is there just to support and clarify this message [Mk 12:33]. If some doctrine seems to have no such role. then either that doctrine is false or you have misunderstood it. Clearly, the two central Traditional doctrines of the faith: Trinity and Incarnation are easy to understand from this perspective. Trinitarianism proclaims that God is "Love In Itself" [1Jn 4:16]; He is Eternal Community, Fellowship and Friendship. Incarnationalism proclaims that God came to be one of us; to be our Friend-at-Hand [1Jn 4:9-10] in order to lead us back to the friendship with God, which we had lost.

People sometimes say, "You don't have to go to Church to be a Christian." Well, they are right on a number of levels, as well as wrong on others. What really matters isn't one's religious observance, but one's social observance! God doesn't really care about details of ceremonial or lusty singing or learned preaching or earnest exhortations: though these have their place. All that really matters is that we do justice in our daily lives: that we are friends one to another. Then society will prosper and all will be happy. The genius of Judeao-Christianity is its confusion of religion and ethics. For many other religions these are separate affairs, and deities are capricious or supposed to be subject to manipulation by means of ritual. The prophets (and Jesus) clearly teach the contrary (as does Plato): that the essence of true religion is "Justice for All", and that formal religion is only of any merit in as far as it supports this single object.

This Credo is a simple and practical message. One that is comprehensible by all [Mt 11:20] and would be very simple to adopt. Indeed it is amazing that humanity has never done so. Others as diverse as Douglas Adams (in his "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") and "Bill and Ted" have advocated or intimated the same idea: that we should "be excellent to each other".

I suspect that the reason there has been only a limited uptake of the idea, both within and without the Church is that other strategies of behaviour tend to work better unless a friendship group has a certain size. Hence the instinct of many who take the faith particularly seriously to adopt the religious style of life, one based on community, commonality and equality rather than on family and hierarchy.

Typically within human society, those at the top act so as to suppress conspiracies (another word for friendship group) on the basis of divide and rule [Mt 10:17-22]. It never seems to the powerful to be in their interests to encourage friendship.

  • Friendship is the basis of solidarity and fortitude among the oppressed and marginalized [Lk 12:4-12].
  • Friendship is subversive and dangerous [Mt 10:34-36].
  • Friendship gives ideas and people power over and against arbitrary authority [Jn 18:27].
  • Friendship works in hidden ways,
    • that are impossible to elucidate and control;
    • and from small beginnings can have huge effects [Lk 13:18-21].
  • Friendship breaks down rigid hierarchy [Mt 20:16,25-28]
    • and is no respected of social [Lk 5:29, 14:12-14]
    • or racial [Lk 10:29-37] barriers.
  • Friendship establishes networks of mutual obligation [Lk 11:5-13],
    • without which any society must fall apart [Lk 11:14-23],

    • and is the basis for reconciliation [Lk 17:3-4, 19:8-10] when an offence has been committed.

The Witness of Sts Luke, Peter, James, John and Jude

When Peter and John were warned by the Sanhedrin not to preach in the name of Jesus any more, they went back to the Church ("their friends" [Acts 4:23]) to report what they had been told. On a number of other occasions, the members of the local Church are referred to as the friends of the Apostle Paul; generally in connection with his being imprisoned or subject to some other kind of civil discipline.

St Peter paints a wonderful picture of a Christian community based on friendship in his first Epistle [1 Pet 4:8-10].

St John's epistles are all about love. He only uses the term "friend", in his third Epistle, when addressing Gaius [3Jn 1] (Jerusalem and New English Bibles) and in describing the Church as "the friends" [3Jn 15]. The Apostle generally prefers  the word "brother". I suggest that the answer to his question [1Jn 3:1-2] regarding what is the destiny of "the children of God", is that they are to become "the friends of God", alongside Abraham, Moses and Elijah. The Apostle makes it quite clear that "love" is not some abstraction but a practical reality in our lives [1Jn 3:18], "faith without works is dead", as the Apostle James tells us [Js 2:16]. John teaches that it is quite impossible to love God and not love our fellow Christians [1Jn 4:20-21]. In his third epistle he commends a clear example of friendship in action [3Jn 3-8].

St Jude seems to caution that a certain distance be maintained between the faithful Christian and those involved in grave sin, for fear of some kind of contamination [Jd 23] (though according to the RSV, the Greek is uncertain); and indeed the virtue of prudence does council caution when putting oneself in the way of temptation. However, it was not the way of Jesus to distance himself from sinners and it is surely more Christ-like to gently seek to win back to the path of justice the friend who has strayed from it rather than to play safe: being primarily concerned to preserve one's own righteousness.

The Witness of St Paul

Friendship is blind to culture, gender, race and status [ Rom 10:12, Rom 11:32]. It is based on the mutual regard and utility of persons [Rom 12:5, I Cor 12:13], who defer to each other out of respect [Rom 12:10, Gal 5:13, Eph 5:21]. Friends are essentially equals [Eph 2:19], and have deep affection for each other [Phlp 4:25-30, Col 4:7-18]. Friends avoid dissension and shouldn't quarrel [1Cor 1:10,11], they should settle what disputes arise among their own number [1Cor 6:1-8]. Friends bear each other's burdens, in adversity [Gal 6:2] and ceaselessly strive to help each other [Gal 6:10, Thes 3:11-12], which is the basis of justification.

The Kingdom and the Church

The Kingdom of God that Jesus constantly proclaimed was, in essence, a perfect society built on friendship. It subsists in the Catholic Church, which is the Fellowship of the Friends of God, the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church is at fault for not preaching the fundamental significance of friendship with sufficient clarity and force. It is the very essence of what it means to be Church [1Cor 12&13]. There are many examples of "friends" in the Christian Tradition, Sts Perpetua and Felicity, Sergius and Bacchus, and Polyeuct and Nearchusare obvious examples. St Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx had a great deal to say about the subject too.
"Christian charity is Friendship to all the world; and when friendships were the noblest things in the world, charity was little, like the Sunrise drawn in at a chink, or his beams drawn into the centre of a burning glass; but Christian charity is friendship expanded like the face of the sun when it mounts above the eastern hills; and I was strangely pleased when I saw something of this in Cicero .... Nature has made friendships and societies, relations and endearments; and by something or other we relate to all the world; there is enough in every man that is willing to make him become our friend; but when men contract friendships they enclose the Commons; and what Nature intended should be every man's, we make proper to two or three. Friendship is, like rivers and the strand of seas, and the air, common to all the world; but Tyrants, and evil customers, wars, and want of love, have made them proper and peculiar." [Jeremy Taylor: "A Discourse on the Nature and Offices of Friendship" (1657)]
Cardinal Ratzinger expresses his understanding of the central Christian vocation as follows:
The Lord addresses these wonderful words to us: 'No longer do I call you servants ... but I have called you friends'[Jn 15:15]. Many times we simply feel like useless servants, it is true [cf Lk 17:10]. And, despite this, the Lord calls us friends; he makes us his friends; he gives us his friendship. The Lord defines friendship in two ways.
  • There are no secrets between friends: Christ tells us everything he hears from the Father; he gives us his full confidence and, with confidence, also knowledge. He reveals his face to us, his heart. He shows us his tenderness for us, his passionate love that goes to the folly of the cross. He gives us his confidence; he gives us the power to speak with his I: 'This is my body', and 'I absolve you'. He entrusts his body to us, the Church. He entrusts his truth to our weak minds, our weak hands, the mystery of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the mystery of the God who 'so loved the world that he gave his only Son'[Jn 3:16]. He has made us his friends and, we, how do we respond?
  • The second element with which Jesus defines friendship is the communion of wills.'Idem velle - idem nolle', was also for Romans the definition of friendship. 'You are my friends if you do what I command you' [Jn 15:14]. Friendship with Christ coincides with what the third petition of the Our Father expresses: 'Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.'
  • In the hour of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will into a will conformed and united with the divine will. He suffered all the drama of our autonomy and, in carrying our will in God's hands, he gave us true freedom: 'Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will' [Mat 26:39]. In this communion of wills our redemption takes place: to be friends of Jesus, to become friends of God. The more we love Jesus, the more we know him, and the more our genuine freedom grows, as well as the joy of being redeemed. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship! [Cardinal Ratzinger: homily preached before the conclave that elected him pope Benedict XVI]
    Ratzinger's vision of Divine Friendship is distorted. In conformance with the teaching of the New Catechism (of which he was the principle author) he places obedience at the heart of friendship. Now in any friendship apart from friendship-with-God, it seems to me that this is manifestly absurd. Only in marriage is there any notion that a deep relationship could be one-sided and involve the subjection of one individual's will to that of another; and I would argue that even in marriage this is quite wrong; and never envisaged by St Paul! The true friend of God argues and struggles with The Lord - like Abraham and Jacob and Elijah and Jonah and Jeremiah - and does not simply say "yes sir". This is the difference between being a "servant of God" and a "friend of God". Indeed it is only within such argument and struggle that the friend of God - as also, it would seem, the human soul of Our Blessed Lord and God - is liable to discover what is truely God's Will: which is never any different from what is good and just and wholesome and "for the best".

    To speak in the terms that Ratzinger uses is to risk giving the impression that God's will is partizan and particular, like the will of any other moral agent, and that it is the business of the Christian to conform to the party line on all matters. While a convenient doctrine for Ecclesiastics, it is almost exactly the opposite of the truth. God does not have a point of view: His are all points of view. God does not have a policy: God simply is Love. Hence, friendship with God does demand "obeying Jesus' commandmants"; but these are twofold only, and nothing more than the heart of the Torah: "Love God" and "Love your neighbour".

    When we pray "fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caello et in terra", we are not asking God to somehow rescind human freewill and rule within the Cosmos by tyranical dictat! First we are simply reminding ourselves that just as "God is in Heaven" and "is Holy", so also "His Will is done everywhere: both in physical reality and the realm of spirit", in spite of appearances. Second, we are expressing our longing for the elimination of  injustice from this world.

    Ratzinger is, however, right when he says that "Friendship with Christ coincides with what the third petition of the Our Father expresses: 'Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven'". However, I fear that he has no understanding of the truth of his words. Where (wo)men become friends of God; there God's will is done: because friends of God are like God - become divinized - and show forth Love in their lives. "Wherever love and charity abide: there God is". In other words, it is not necessary to obey God in order to be His friend. Rather, it is true that all those that Love - that hunger and thirst after justice - do in fact "do God's Will" and so are His friends.

    In his first Encyclical on "Love" Ratzinger, singularly neglected the topic of friendship. Nevertheless, he did say:

    "Love of neighbour .... consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend." [Benedict XVI "Deus Caritas Est"]

    Jesus needs Friends

    Jesus needs friends. He cried over Jerusalem. He cried tears of blood in Gethsemene. He cried "My God, why have you deserted me?" from the cross. His Sacred Heart is transfixed with the anguish of suffering humanity. He sees all our conceit, our lying, our greed and vanity, our exploitation of the poor and vulnerable, our marginalization of misfits, our betrayal of friends. It hurts Him, still. He doesn't care much about profanity or sacrilege or fornication, though these are wrong. He doesn't care much about the disrespect shown to Him in the Blessed Sacrament, though this is inexcusable! He cares deeply that we continue to disregard His simple and direct teaching to love our neighbours as ourselves: because He sees all too clearly the mess that this gets us into.
    "To question the will of God on some level is a part of what true faith is all about. It is not always looking for a loophole but rather it is confirming to ourselves that we have truly heard from God and that we heard Him correctly. It is not wrong to question the will of God. It is not wrong to struggle with Him and to have our occasional doubts. What is wrong is to allow those doubts to outweigh our faith in God. So feel confident in the fact that your faith and devotion to God is not measured by the struggle with your faith or your questioning of God's will, but rather by your willingness to follow that will in the end." [Archbishop Anthony (Patriarch of the Ancient Apostolic Communion) "Questioning God?" (2006)]
    Jesus wants to be your "Best Friend". You should respond with wonder, and seek to live out the kind of life that will give Him joy and some degree of consolation. The repentance of a sinner, such as yourself, causes much rejoicing in Heaven! Turn to Holy Spirit and ask for the grace to be a friend to Jesus in those you meet in your daily life. Tell Jesus that you love Him, and want to be close to Him in his passion for sinners. Then seek to live by Gospel values, confident that when you fail there is always another chance. Worlds without End!
    Ever living God: I ask for the greatest of your gifts.
    The gift of Love.
    That I may love You with all my strength
    and my neighbours as myself.
    It is not easy to love, amid the turmoil of daily life.
    Make me patient and kind. Never boastful, rude or conceited.
    Make me eager to excuse any mistake;
    to trust those that I meet; to wish them well;
    to endure whatever slights I may receive.
    Above all, give me a delight in the Truth.
    Help me to love,
    because you, my Love,
    are Love itself.
    Amen.
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