Tuesday, January 07, 2014


Friendship, Love and Conditions

They have been talking about "friendship" a lot at First Things. Recently there was a couple of related posts, one by Wesley Hill and one by Ron Belgau, although they are barely related. They seem to take off in different directions rotating around on quotation. Hill discusses "conditions" in friendship and Belgau the question of whether there even is room for friendship inside Christianity. Let's focus on Hill:
Thinking along these lines is, I suspect, the answer to those who are skeptical about the practice of Christian friendship. It is not that Christian friendship is blind to the unique, unrepeatable, supremely valuable identity of each friend. But by loving with a radically committed love that will never give up on the other, even when the other becomes unlovable, Christian friends imitate God who loves not only creatures made in his image but loves fallen creatures and only thereby makes us lovely in the wake of our ruin.
Interesting, but I think it misses the real point mostly because I don;t think "unlovely" is a category. Everyone is lovely, we are all created by God and bear His image - as such we cannot be other than lovely. But we are also fallen and we sin. To me the question is not how to love the unlovely, but how in the context of sin do I be friends and not enable or encourage the sin?

I do not think this is a trivial distinction. If the other makes it a condition of friendship that I "accept" their alcoholism, then the friendship will be limited. I will still love them, and when the sober up you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be there, but I will never, ever drink with them in a bar. Love, by definition, cannot encourage nor endorse destructive behavior, it would be unloving to do so.

This issue is particularly poignant in the case of a friend that has determined they are homosexual. So many I am familiar with a) wear their homosexuality as a badge of some sort demanding "acceptance," and b) declare that if I do not accept their homosexuality I do not love them. Let the record show those are their conditions, not mine. My love for them does not diminish in my insistence that homosexual practice is destructive behavior, they just think it does.

I think often of Christ's confrontation with the Woman at the Well. He boldly proclaimed her immorality to her. She did not run away and declare him evil for doing so. To some level the Holy Spirit had prepared her to hear Christ. The Holy Spirit has not prepared all for such just yet. Some would run away. But there was something about HOW Christ proclaimed this bad news that did not offend this woman. It is that something that we need to develop for ourselves.


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