At a recent wedding, the celebrant kept reminding us about the love of friends and how for many of us friends are the new family. This is particularly true if there are challenging situations around family. It got me thinking if this is a new and today blood relatives are now taking second place to families.
The popular American sit-com, ‘Friends’ was pitched to the network as the development of importance of friendship because if ‘you’re single and in the city, your friends are your family’.
Two and half decades on from the launch of the TV Series, teenagers might find it hard to fathom a world in which friends hang out every day physically… or rather, IRL (in real life) as so much of friendship for teenagers is virtual. Some of them may never even have met their ‘friend’ in the flesh. However, relationships beyond family are key to a child’s development in a number of ways. Friendships help forge skills like negotiation, cooperation, and conflict resolution. They teach children how to be supportive and show empathy. They also stimulate independent thinking and open children up to new ideas. This became an issue for so many young people during lockdown and forced more and more online friendships.
In the Roman world of Our Lord, a ‘friend’ was often a political ally who owed someone a favour or a more powerful patron on whom one could depend. But we don’t often think of the friends of Jesus as political allies or business acquaintances. Jesus redefined what it meant to be a friend. He is our model for love and if we obey His command to love, they enjoy the intimacy of His friendship. Friendship is not a once-for-all gift, but develops as the result of obeying Jesus’ command to love. ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. (John 15:13)
Loyalty and the sharing of secrets were important to ancient friendships, and the Greeks held the expression to die for a friend as the highest expression of loyalty . Jesus took care in choosing the those closest to Him. His friendship with Peter, James, and John. James and John were brothers, and the three of them had been called to follow Christ while out fishing on John’s father’s boat. (Luke 5:1-11). Through his friendship He mentored them to be leaders of the church and sent his friends on a mission to spread the Good News and build the faith.
Many of our friendships in the modern day are with our work colleagues and the majority of these lapse after we leave or retire. This can leave you without the comfort of friendship.
As we get older, we realise more and more that friends can also be family. Lots of us can share powerful friendships with their siblings, spouses, children and other family members. The more support, the more positive interactions, the better as the important thing is having people you can rely on, for the good times as well as the bad. Jesus is a good friend to all of us too so don’t forget him!