Date of Award
Rev. J. Eugene Peoples
Rev. Jack Redman
W. M. Thompson
When I first began this paper on friendship, I really did not know where to begin. Besides having had thought about friendship, I had read some books and magazine articles. The result was a thousand diverse ideas with no common thread to weave them together. Finally, it occured to me that an etymological dissection of the word "friend” might help. Not only did it help, but it proved to be a common thread for many of those varied thoughts on friendship. "Friend" in the language of the Frisians (a Germanic tribe who lived in what is now Holland), meant "free." In turn, that word meant "beloved." In going to the gospel accounts, I found additional threads which beautifully tied together friendship and freedom. Yet this also caused more questions to arise. John 8:31-32 for example asked more questions than it answered. In that passage, Jesus tells the people that if they make his word their home, they would learn the truth, and the truth would make them free. Clearly friendship and truth were both grounded in freedom. But how did they tie together? And of what form is the truth?
I was still struggling with this idea of truth when a new problem came up. If friendship is intended to free, would that not imply that we as human persons are not free? Are we in some sense enslaved? My answer to that question was 11 Yes we are enslaved." Enslavement comes as a result of self-centered desires, as I try to point out in the story of the Fall. Personal enslavement allows our external empirical selves to increase, while simultaneously it allows the conscious presence of the Risen Christ within each of us to decrease. Friendship reverses this trend. But how? That again brought up the idea of truth. In the light of personal enslavement, the gospel accounts, and etymological considerations, I came to realize that we as human persons are not true to our identity. Each one of us in some way wants to be who we ourselves want us to be and not as God intended us to be. Because of it, our relationships are stained with a pervading egotism. Our relationships are fatally superficial. They only serve to enslave. Friendship is intended to free. Something must come to rescue friendship of its deviant forms. Contemplative experience, I believe, can rescue friendship from its underside. The contemplative experience has eyes to see beyond the superficial and to see things as they really are. It helps to free us from self-centered tendencies and to rejoice
in the truth of our own uniqueness. Far from being a solitary experience, contemplative friendship is active in communtiy and solitude alike. Both this togetherness and aloneness are necessary in overcoming selfish desire. With the added dimension of the contemplative element, friendship may truly be an expression of full personhood—which is freedom itself. It should be point out that this work is not scholarly in the sense that I have not poured over volumes upon volumes of material and then analyzed their contents. Rather, this work is more of a creative approach, the result of an idea which was developing in my own mind. My resources were selective, and were used to help elaborate and confirm the ideas that I had. It is, however, a legitimate approach in writing an Honors Thesis. I hope and I pray that what is contained herein is not taken as an absolute or a perfect ideal. Friendship transcends intellectualization. It is always evolving. It lives and it grows. No words can ever contain the experience of friendship. May God bless all of your friendships with His creative and freeing love.
Perrier, Mark, "No Longer Servants But Friends: A Contemplative Approach To Friendship" (1979). Theology Undergraduate Theses. 36.