Advent Friendship Reflection, Day 15

In John (15:13) Jesus claims that there is no greater display of friendship than when one lays down one's life for another. This too is not a phrase unique to Jesus. We find similar friendship sayings in Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, and elsewhere among Greco-Roman thinkers. Generally, the kind of friendship that called upon a person to die for another was considered to be part of the experience of war. Soldiers and veterans knew that sacrificing one's life for another was the bravest and most powerful expression of friendship. Another variation on the theme is sharing the "same struggle," a phrase we find in a cluster of friendship idioms at the end of the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians (1:30).

As you think beyond your family and tight social networks, is there anyone you would be willing to die for? Is there anyone who would gladly die for you? What kinds of shared experiences bond people so tightly that they would be willing to engage in this kind of self-sacrificial friendship? Can those of us who are not veterans even begin to understand or experience this kind of bond?

I find it curious that so many people, many in the "majority" anglo culture are so willing, even desiring, to see themselves as victims in a supposed culture war. I wonder whether this might have something to do with our contemporary experience of loneliness and social isolation. Are many of us so in need of feeling a strong social bond, that we seek out ways to identify with groups that can claim trauma, exclusion, and victimization? Is this too a product of a culture that has prized convenience, entertainment, and pleasure above all things, including truth? What kinds of struggles do you identify with? Whom would you die for?

Each day of advent, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, I plan to post a few thoughts on an aspect of friendship I learned while writing my book, Virtuous Friendship: The New Testament, Greco-Roman Friendship Language, and Contemporary Community, available on Amazon through this link. This will be a chance for me to share with you all a little bit from what I learned, while giving you, hopefully, a chance to take a deep breath during this busy season and do some reflection. Also, you won't have to secure another resource for Advent. I realize that you are all at many different places with regard to faith and belief, so use these reflections however you see fit. If you'd be interested in having me come speak at your church, lead a Bible Study, or even just Zoom or Skype in for a Q&A with a Sunday School class or other small group, let me know: doug.hume@pfeiffer.edu.

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