Friendship and Responsibility

What do you think it means to be a friend? The bible is clear about what goes along with that title.
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source: Catholic.net

              In our techno saturated world the definition of many things has changed.  Among the things that people have re-assessed is the concept of who and/or what a friend is.  Like so many things, in my opinion, I think that “modern society” has gotten it wrong.  Young people today choose from a plethora of artificial categories to designate the ones that they call “friends”; BFFs, FB friends, Tweeters, Fans, Followers, chat room protégés, on-line buddies, those we “party with”.  It’s entirely possible that because of technology, a so-called friend could even be someone that a person has never even met face to face.  A friend can also be someone who will “do you in” or lie about what you have been doing or saying.  Fidelity, respect and loyalty seem to have been dropped from the definition and the only thing that matters is what pleases or entertains me for the moment, in the now.

            This is one more of those things that I believe has gotten worse not better as we live through the rise of technology and its “benefits” in our post modern society.  As with everything else the one place that we can look to for consistent “life wisdom” is the Word.  There are many examples and lessons about friendship that have endured through the ages, literally.  Maybe it would do us well to revisit them. Of primary note is how Jesus modeled friendship.  He taught many things by word but his most powerful lessons came by examples he modeled himself and those he drew from the society around him.  One of the most prominent lessons on friendship was the passage in Mark 2.

            In the scene Jesus has returned to Capernaum after a particularly stressful road trip.  His fame was rising and his return home brought him no relief and not a shred of peace and quiet.  His stay at Peter’s house was besieged day and night by people seeking healing.  There were people everywhere, inside, outside, in line to get in.  A pressing and impatient crowd busy judging Him or seeking Him.  Now I have been to “Peter’s house”.  It is not opulent.  Rather, it is a tiny structure that would have been more than packed by a small number like fifty people.  The crowd was elbow to elbow.  A small band of four friends arrived and was disappointed by their inability to even get within feet of the place.  There were just too many people.  They had traveled far while carrying a desperately sick and paralyzed friend, on a liter, the whole way.  Now that’s faith that won’t be deterred.

            Their next action was quite simply outrageous.  After bearing their friend this far and getting this close, they were determined to get him to Jesus.  After scoping out the possibilities, they decided that there was another way that was not obvious to the eye.  The four friends “went around back” and found a way up to the roof.  Diligently, they removed tiles and created an opening big enough for the litter.  The bible does not mention that anyone noticed that an excavation was going on right above their heads.  Maybe there was too much noise and/or confusion.  Whatever the case, when the opening was large enough the four companions carefully lowered the stretcher down and plunked their friend directly in front of Jesus!

             His response to this surprise is quite frankly remarkable. Without batting an eyelash, Jesus quickly surveys the roof, the paralytic and the four friends; “Seeing their faith, Jesus said the paralytic; ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’”  It is important to note that this man’s ailment was paralysis.  There was nothing, obviously, that he did or could do for himself.  Jesus grants mercy because of the faith and determination of the friends.  He is immediately challenged by the scribes in the room and after another exchange he grants this man physical healing also.  That’s a different discussion that we could have about this reading which has so many layers but let our focus remain on the “friends”.

            In biblical times, travel wasn’t easy.  Roads were hot and dusty, rutted or filled with mud.  Where ever these guys came from, their journey was not an easy task, not to mention the additional difficulty of carrying their sick friend.  There is no mention that they had a beast or vehicle to assist them. One can only imagine their conversation before their undertaking; “This is crazy, this is too hard, we’ll never get there, it will take forever, …. and so on.”   But whatever transpired the company of four plus one set off.  They collectively assumed the responsibility of getting their friend “one more chance”.  They were going to get him to the source of love and healing no matter what the obstacles. They were successful.  As friends they took their commitment seriously.  A friend was in need, in danger and the four proceeded to take on the task of getting him to healing. In this biblical picture of “friend” we see that the title is much more than someone who entertains or amuses us.  A “friend” is someone who cares for us when we can’t care for ourselves and has courage when we can’t muster it.  Jesus, in an off handed manner, grants the friends an enormous blessing.  He honors their faith by granting forgiveness to their friend.  He performs a miracle for the friend, not the four.

            If you meditate on this story it should give you an entirely new picture of what it means to call yourself a friend.  Clearly, if you assume that title it carries with it great responsibility.  Are you ready to fight for your friend’s healing no matter the obstacles?  Are you willing to openly demonstrate your faith to your friend especially when their faith has grown cold?  Do you understand that your constant intercession for them can bring life or healing when they no longer can manage for themselves?  Do you know that it’s your job to carry them when they can no longer move forward?   Do you know that when a friend has lost their vision for the future, that your vision can sustain them? These are the responsibilities of friendship.  As far as Jesus is concerned friendship is serious business.  When you think about this story there are some things you might consider that could have a profound effect on your own spiritual life.   Who are the four that you could name right now who would carry you to Jesus?  In your past life, who were four who helped to bring you to Jesus initially?  What people, right now, would consider you to be one of their four without thinking twice?  If you can’t think of four people for any of these questions, you might give new consideration to what you think it means to be a friend.  Friendship is a lynchpin of any faith walk.  The concept of “only Jesus and me” is quite simply erroneous.  The proof is in the scriptures in all the passages like Mark 2 which describe the qualities and benefits of friendship.  Community and friendship are the school of faith. Ministry to others is an essential skill for the believer to learn.  If that were not true Jesus would have never had a public ministry.  It would not have been necessary.  “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends…. I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I have learned from my Father”.  (Jn 15: 13, 15 Jer. Bible)   


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Copyright © 2011, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved  



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Published by: Brother Nathan
Date: 2011-01-23 05:11:55
Thanks Kathryn, Those who have most helped me to get to Jesus are his priests! They bring me his most precious gifts - MERCY and LOVE. They deserve our gratitude for saying YES. God Bless, Brother Nathan

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