I have just turned 58. During those years, I have travelled around the world, met many people, and had many friends which seem scattered on a very wide philosophical, political and religious spectrum. As a result, I have made some observations about love and friendship.
I have noticed that we often make friends based on our similarities with people. Many dating sites use that idea and base their match-making on ‘compatibility points’ which are in fact very often similarity points between people. It makes sense. As the old adage says, ‘Birds of a feather flock together!’
Friendship is used in many ways. It is used as social interactions, moral/emotional support, financial support (not to be abused and preferably practiced as a two-way avenue), and for those egocentric people, friendship can be used as a ‘fan club’. There are also the Facebook ‘friends’ but this takes us to another dimension. Friendship seems to have many concentric circles. There are the close friends who know everything about you, those on whose shoulder you cry on, those you go on a picnic with, and those you keep at arm’s length. As a general rule though, it seems that friendship is naturally divided along social, political, religious, or philosophical lines. American High-Schools are a very good microcosm of that reality.
But we are not birds who flock together by natural instincts. Unlike animals who live by instinct, we humans live by choice (or we should). As human beings, one of our ultimate choices is the one to be able to choose who our friends are. We can follow the natural trend to surround ourselves with pawns, with worshipers, with those who reflect us, or with people who, in all respect decency and order are able to challenge us, or at least present us with an alternate view. It might even be advisable as those people usually offer us something absolutely vital to our social thinking: balance.
As humans there is much more that unites than divides us. We all look for love, safety, security, acceptance, provision, and respect. We can always find points of agreement along these lines. I don’t know if I would make friend’s with a cannibal as I would wonder what he means when he says, “I like you!”, but I can certainly be a friend with someone of a different religion, political viewpoint and who holds to the same basic moral principles as me. Catholics and Protestants can be friends, as well as Israelis and Palestinians, Sunnis and Shiites. Even Democrats and Republicans can be friends. People can be friends though holding to different philosophies and persuasions because true love and friendship is, at the end of the day, a choice. We choose to be friends because of the greater cause that friendship represents.
As a chaplain, I will draw examples of what I am saying from the Bible. God called Abraham His friend; He called King David His beloved. Jesus also called His disciples His ‘friends’. When we’ve come to the realization of the high holiness of God and of the sinlessness of Jesus, what can we expect to have in common with them? Nothing!. So, what does this teach us about love and friendship? They love us and are our friends because they chose to in view of the greater cause that friendship with us represents.
The question therefore is, “If they chose to love us in spite of our differences, should we choose to love other human beings around us in spite of their differences?
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