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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A theology of friendship

There's a post at America magazine's blog about the pope's new children's book, The Friends of Jesus, and it quotes a story at NCR by Dennis Coday ....

The prologue, by Spanish Fr. Julian Carron, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, begins: ""One upon a time there was a small group of men who, one day two thousand years ago, met a young man who walked the roads of Galilee . Each had his own job and family but, in an instant, their lives changed. They were called Andrew and John, Peter, Matthew, Thomas, etc. They were twelve and we know them today as the 'Apostles'. ... In Jerusalem at that time everyone knew that they were Jesus' 'friends'. ... Later they were joined by St. Paul ..."

Carron writes that Benedict XVI "takes us by the hand and accompanies us as we discover who Jesus' first companions were, how they met him and were conquered by him to the point that they never abandoned Him." [What about that "three times you will deny me" bit and who went to the grave first on that first Easter?]

I guess left out of friendship are Lazarus and his two sisters (who Jesus loved but apparently liked not so much :), Mary M, and doubtless others, including everyone who follows Jesus' teaching.

I read an interesting paper on the subject of friendship with Jesus from The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. Here's just a bit from the beginning of it ......


"I Have Called You Friends"
by Gail R. O'Day

[...] Friendship was an important topic in the Greek and Roman cultures in which the early Church took shape and the New Testament documents were written. For Aristotle and classical philosophers who followed him, friendship was a key social relationship. In the democratic ideal of the Athenian polis, or city-state, friendship exemplified the mutual social obligation on which the polis depended.

But it is also true the virtuous man’s conduct is often guided by the interests of his friends and of his country, and that he will if necessary *lay down his life in their behalf*…. And this is doubtless the case with those who give their lives for others; thus they choose great nobility for themselves. (1)

This quotation from Aristotle represents the classical ideal of friendship expressed by many writers. In the Symposium, Plato writes, “Only those who love wish to die for others.” Lucian, a Hellenistic philosopher and storyteller, promises to tell his readers of “many deeds of blood and battles and deaths for the sake of friends.” (2)

For modern readers, Jesus’ definition of love and friendship in John 15:13—to lay down one’s life for one’s friend—is completely unprecedented. Most contemporary language about friendship does not speak in terms of life and death. We celebrate our friends, we eat and drink with friends, we take vacations with friends, we are there when a friend is in need; but the modern ideal of friendship is not someone who lays down his or her life on behalf of another. In the ancient world, however, Jesus’ words articulated a well-known ideal for friendship, not a brand new idea. This does not mean that any more people laid down their lives for their friends in the ancient world than are inclined to do so today—but it does show that the ideal of doing so belonged to the ancient perspective on friendship.

An additional aspect of ancient friendship is important for understanding friendship in the Gospel of John. In the first-century world of the New Testament, discussions of friendship moved from a friendship ideal to focus on the more pragmatic realities of patron-client relationships and on the political expediency captured in expressions like “friend of the emperor” (see 19:12). One of the main distinguishing marks of a friend in this context was the use of “frank speech” (parrēsia). Philosophers counseled the patron to be on the lookout for whether “friends” were speaking honestly and openly or whether they were engaging in flattery to further their own ends:

Frankness of speech, by common report and belief, is the language of friendship especially (as an animal has its peculiar cry), and on the other hand, that lack of frankness is unfriendly and ignoble…. (3)

According to the Hellenistic philosophers, to be someone’s friend was to speak frankly and honestly to them and to hold nothing back.

The New Testament writings were not created in a social vacuum. These two dimensions of friendship in the ancient world—the gift of one’s life for one’s friends and the use of frank and open speech—informed the way that the Gospel of John and its readers understood language about friendship.

John 15:12-15 is the key passage in John for a theology of friendship. Jesus enacts friendship throughout the Gospel, but these verses provide the words to describe and name who and what Jesus is as friend. In John, Jesus is both the model and the source of friendship. As the model of friendship, he calls the disciples to love as he has loved. As the source of friendship, he makes possible their own friendship through what he has given them .......


(1) Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics IX.8 (1169a18–25), quoting from H. Rackham, ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926), italics added.
(2) Plato, Symposium 179B, also 208D; Lucian, Toxaris 36. In the New Testament, Paul echoes this theme: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
(3) Plutarch, How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend, 51.



Blogger victor said...

Who could possibly have understood The Son of God Our Heavenly Father when He walked this earth in the flesh. We can only guess about Him because He was and still is God who loves U>s ALL equally because He's All LOVE.

I believe that there is at least one cell of Jesus in each and every body but then we also have many cells in our body. I would guess that even a heavenly body here on earth would also have negative charge cells in other words a good battery needs negative and positive to form a good strong charge.

What are you talking bout Victor?

I'm not quiet sure yet but I've heard that His Holiness has written a children's books and not everyone is pleased with "IT" I hear.

Listen here you skitso! Unless your god loves homosexuals, baby killers and people who need to end their lives cause they no longer wish to live, I won't serve him for eternity.

But He does love every body sinner vic cause He's ALL Love sinner vic.

Then why does he hate woman Victor?

sinner vic, he doesn't hate woman and if you don't believe me just ask Adam and Eve's Angels.

Forget "IT" Victor cause they are all a fairy tale.

Listen hear sinner vic, don't tell anyone but Jesus carried His OWN CROSS to Calvary because He was not just about the pass, He died for every body cells that were caught in The Devils Net. Again I beg of you not to tell but The Devil's Trinity told all his angels that he wanted not Jesus to die when He did cause "IT" was too easy of a death for HIM. Satan wanted more than just The Body and blood of Jesus for just that day but His Father was more than a Friend.

sinner vic, the only way I could hope to explain "IT" is like a Domino lined UP in perfect prediction by Satan's Angel in other words, he had moved a few so that "IT" would not occurs the way "IT" should have. Now multiply that by xyz in other words Dominos were tampered during the pass, present and future by Evil which can not exist in God's Mind.

I better stop now sinner vic.

Yes! Give "IT" UP Victor!

Let "IT" go Victor!

OK! I guess you're right sinner vic so I'll just thank crystal for allowing me a say and tell His Holiness to keep UP The Good Words and to remind Him that not even God is able to please all "The Times".


7:44 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Victor :)

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

I'm confused Crystal. I went to the NCR and America site and everyone seems to be commenting on a press release - isn't that strange? It's like commenting on a photograph of a Mondrian instead of actually looking at a real Mondrian, isn't better to look at the original? So, maybe they should reserve judgment until they actually read the book. Anyway, just my thoughts.



7:19 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


I guess they've just commented on the press release because the book isn't in English?

10:36 AM  

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