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September 8 2014 09:30 | Thomas More, Campus Carolus, Room 109

The Believer is a Man of Friendship



Epiphanios


Orthodox Bishop, Coptic Church, Egypt

Most people think that friendship means just loyalty.  However, in Christianity it has always had a greater and deeper meaning than mere loyalty; it is love itself.

First, let us define the word “believer”.

A believer is a man living out the Christian life biblically.  Imitating the Lord Christ in his life, the apostle Paul says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1Cor 11:1).

The shining and glowing fruits of the Spirit set apart believers from non-believers in everyday life.  Such consist in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).  Everyone is to be held accountable for them.  The life of love shows up in loving God, loving one’s brothers, loving nature—in short, loving the whole world.

Now, let us define friendship:

Friendship is love in its best form.  The Bible says, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  Friendship therefore is equivalent to love, and love is to put your life even to death for the one you love.

Now who are one’s beloved?

Our Lord Jesus teaches us, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength … and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:30-31).  The Lord has given an excellent parable in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:33.

It is now clear that my friend (my neighbor) is not a member of my family or anyone bearing a blood relationship to me or even sharing with me the same beliefs or doctrine; he is one who shares with me the anxieties of this life. Even if we do not share the same values, religion or ideology; or even if we are considered enemies in religious terms.

Jesus was known by everyone to be a lover of sinners and tax collectors (Luke7:34).

His friendship reached everybody, especially the lowly and the oppressed who did not enjoy any respect or honor from the surrounding society.

He stretched his pure arms to help every one, whether Jews or foreigners, without any distinction:

  • He healed the servant of the Roman centurion (Mat 8:1)
  • the Syrophoenician Canaanite woman (Mar 7:26)  
  • the Samaritan leper whose faith Jesus praised—being the only one that came back to give thanks and glory to God (Luke 17:16).

Our Lord commanded us to make friends for ourselves by means of the Mammon of unrighteousness (Luke16:9) a nick name for the money of this world over which we are set as only keepers; we should waste it in charity among others.

In addition, he commanded us to offer unconditional friendship to everybody, expecting nothing in return: “And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33).

Even more than that he considered those who wounded him as friends and beloved ones, when he answers the question in Zechariah 13:9 saying: “What are these wounds between your arms? Then he will say those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”  He also told his disciples to love their enemies and consider them as friends (Luke 6:35).  There is no better way than friendship to stop the rising enmity in the world.

To this effect we find St Paul showing no discrimination during his ministry as an apostle around the world.  He offered God’s faith, peace and love without any distinction.  Besides, he made friends in every city he entered, and the long lists of friends and beloved bear him witness in all his letters.  An example of this may be found in Romans 16.

According to this paramount law of love and friendship believers live and imitate Christ and his disciples.

We find a wonderful story in the biography of St Macarius (founder of monasticism in the desert of Scete, Western desert of Egypt):

While he was walking with one of his disciples he saw a pagan priest rushing up to his temple.  He then greeted him saying, “Peace to you man of vigor!” With this simple greeting he won the man, and he became one of his disciples.  St Macarius commented on this saying: A word of kindness has the power to transform evildoers into righteous men (Apophthegmata Patrum, Macarius 39).

St Francis of Assisi, founder of Franciscan monasticism, had friendship with nature (plants, birds, sun and moon.)  He called the sun my sister and the moon my brother!

The Copts of Egypt managed in the transitory period following the revolution of January 25, 2011 to hold out firmly during those tough days because of their friendship with their Muslim brothers.  They showed great help and support to the Copts until the nation could pull herself out together from such a boggy experience.

Furthermore, when there were attacks on churches, young Muslims offered to make human shields to protect the churches with their own bodies.  H.H. Pope Tawadros responded saying: Churches will be ransom for the nation and we could rebuild them, but we will not sacrifice our brothers.

To conclude, if we could live faithfully according to the Holy Bible, we could easily switch our enemies into friends and then there will be no enmity or hatred any more but friendship and love.

 

 

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