Tuesday, October 24, 2006

On Friendship

The Old Testament reading for morning prayer this morning is from Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17 and is on friendship. Kate and I on a regular basis have a discussion, sometimes it is an argument concerning friendship. It is at times a frustrating conversation. Friday we had this conversation again. Then I find this passage in morning prayer:
6Let those who are friendly with you be many,
but let your advisers be one in a thousand.
7When you gain friends, gain them through testing,
and do not trust them hastily.

My approach to friendship is reflected in verse 6 and Kate's in verse 7. Yet they are in parallel construction, they are saying the same thing. The passage goes on to speak of the types of friends one may have but who are not constant friends, those who fall away in trouble or turn on you and become an enemy. Friendship is difficult, I appraoch that difficulty letting myself be friendly with many while knowing that in my larger group of friends there are those few who are my advisors, those I trust to stick with me. I often know who these people are very early on. Kate I think in contrast tests her friends and much of our discussions are arround how not to trust people too hastily, as well as how do you have many with whom you are friendly but only trust the one.
It is encouraging that the difficulty of friendship and defining friendship is not new, but I wonder if a certain temptation is peculiar to friendship in a society with democratic values. Equality and being egalitarian are high virtues in our society and yet if Ecclesiasticus is correct friendship is not egalitarian, friendship means trusting one more and others less, in fact this discrimination is wisdom itself.
What I hear in verse 5 and 6a is a call to be impartial in one's general dealings with others, to borrow from the Apostle Paul "So far as it depends on you be at peace with all people." Jesus healed any and all, entered anyone's house no matter who they were, but he chose 12 disciples and one of those, was the one Jesus loved. This is perhaps the challenge of friendship and of a life of faith we are to be impartial and discriminating at the same time. Not all friends are to be trusted with your very self. We all are loved by God, some of us know God better than others. Some of us are more trustworthy than others, some of us trust God better than others of us.
Perhaps God is impartial, but perhaps God is not an egalitarian. In generality we are all equal in specificity there is call for descrimination, not everyone is to be trusted not all see God.

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