Friendship. To what extent is the divine example a model for human friendship, as presented by a Father whom we cannot see and the Son who lived among us? This divine example, along with other biblical examples of friendship, will guide our discussion this week.
Questions for discussion:
- David and Jonathan. The friendship of David and Jonathan is all the more remarkable because Jonathan should have been in line to be king. Yet he deferred to his friend David. What does the story in 1 Samuel 20 tell us about the value of self-sacrifice within the framework of friendship. How does the idea of self-sacrifice relate to the ideal of equality?
- Bad company. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Paul advises the believers not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Most often that verse has been applied to marriage. But is there not a sense in which it could also apply to business relationships and to friendships? How does one establish the right kind of boundaries between being in the world but not being of it. If we keep ourselves separate from the “world,” how can we influence it for good?
- Jesus and his friends. While the story of Jesus’ life and teachings in the Gospels never gives the slightest excuse for carelessness, Jesus does not seem to warn his followers against bad company nearly as forcefully as the apostles do in the epistles. Could we say that the purity of Jesus’ life made it safer for him to associate with dangerous people than it would be for the rest of us? How can one best preserve the ideals presented in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Through isolation, limited contact, or whole-hearted embrace? Note the following examples from Jesus’ life:
- Jesus the unselfish one. Philippians. 2:3-8 is a powerful description of what it meant for Jesus to lay aside his divine prerogatives and take up our human flesh. How can this famous passage provide a foundation for meaningful human friendships? Is it possible to carry self-effacement to the point where it becomes a symbol of pride and a more dangerous form of selfishness?
- Not servants but friends. In his famous upper room conversation with his disciples, as found in John 14-17, Jesus pointed to a friendship model as replacing a servanthood model. The most explicit passage is John 15:12-15. Yet other New Testament passages continue to present Jesus’ followers as servants, even in John’s Gospel (cf. John 12:26; Luke 12:43-48; 17:10). Is there an element of servanthood in friendship? How can these two models augment each other? Or are they mutually exclusive? To what extent is our relationship with Jesus a model for our relationship with other people?