“Friend” is not an official title, or a role we have to play, or a function in society. We have our brothers and sisters in the nature of things, and have to live with them. But friendships grow up out of free encounter. Friendship is a personal relationship between people who like one another. Friendship combines affection with respect.
Combining affection with respect does not mean wanting to serve the other person, or having to help him, or making use of him. It means simply liking someone for themselves, just as they are. The affection has to do with the being of other people, the respect has to do with their freedom. Friendship is the opposite of appropriation or the desire to possess. If we become aware of any such intention, we are put off, and the friendship withers. In friendship we sense that there is a wide space of freedom in which we can expand, because we are trusted and can lay aside the protective mechanism of mistrust.
I am finishing reading “The Spirit of Life” and loved this quote. I love his description of friendship. All the more interesting when you consider that apparently Jesus’s enemies said the following concerning Him.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds. (Matthew 11:19)
I think that is consistent with the picture of Jesus presented in the New Testament. He loved people. He loved being around people, no matter their state of being. This doesn’t mean that He didn’t call everyone to repentance, He just also respected people’s freedom of will (sorry my Calvinist friends).