Religion Magazine

The Sanctity of Friendship

By Richardl @richardlittleda

Maundy Thursday

I always introduce the act of communion with a description of Jesus ‘sitting at a table with his friends. This is why:

Long, long ago, when the world was new and the paint was still drying on the crimson rose and the bright yellow canary, God would walk often in the garden. Like a neighbor trusted with a house key, he would walk in and out as it pleased him. Then, of course, everything turned sour, the key was handed back, the occupants were thrown out, and the locks were changed.  Since then there had been others. There was Enoch, who walked with God like a man walks with his friend in the long shadows of a summer’s evening – and the walk just went on. There had been David – a friend of sorts, but with heart and mind more divided than whole. And so the years rolled on and on. Centuries later, in a borrowed room with flickering candle shadows playing on the walls, Jesus shared a meal with his friends. ‘Greater love has no man than this’ he explained ‘if he lay down his life for his friends’. Far away, yet closer than the next atom, something stirred in the heart of the creator and a friendship was born again.

Writing from his prison cell, deprived of the company he loved, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about the sanctity of friendship. It is not like loyalty to nation or family – compelled by a sense of duty. Friendship is a relationship to which we consent and into which we invest. He describes it here, in a poem written to his friend Eberhard Bethge:

Not from the heavy soil where blood and ancestry

and oath are powerful and sacred,

where earth itself guards and protects and avenges

 the consecrated sacred orders

against madness and wickedness -

not from the heavy soil of earth,

but from free affection and the spirit’s free desires,

needing no oath or legal bond,

friend is given to friend

____________________________Tonight, and tomorrow, Christians remember a ‘friend given to friend’




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