Friendship

In his remarkable lecture “Aristotle on Friendship”, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Daniel N. Robinson identified Aristotle’s three foundations of friendship. In all three forms of friendship there is reciprocity. The first foundation of friendship is where A befriends B and B befriends A because in each other’s company they derive some form of sensual pleasure. It may be that they make each other laugh, or they just have a good time in each other’s company. The second foundation of friendship is where A befriends B and B befriends A because of utility. A is useful to B and B is useful to A. For example, a rich man seems to have lots of “friends” so long as his pockets are bulging, and he in return, enjoys the utility of being a man of “many connections”– for knowing people tends to have in its own right, great usefulness. Now before I move on to the last foundation of friendship, a comment on the first two. In the first two forms of friendship just described, it appears that an expiration date is set on the friendship. The friendships last so long as the pleasure or utility last. They are friendships motivated by selfishness where the parties to the friendship are only friends so long as they are getting something out of it. In essence, were the right person to come along at the right time, that person can fulfill either the pleasure or usefulness the friendship requires. So when B ceases to be either a source of pleasure or utility to A, A leaves B and befriends C who now provides that pleasure or utility.  I would like you to pause for a moment and observe your own friendships and see if you do not find this to be the case. I know in my case some of my so called friends who I have ceased to be a source of pleasure and utility to have all but ceased to call or text me. Now in the last form of friendship we find the highest or intended purpose of what friendships ought to be about. Daniel N. Robinson goes on to explain that Aristotle uses the Greek word “teleia philia” to identify the basis or foundation of this last form of friendship. “Teleia philia” he goes on to explain is poorly translated into English as perfected or completed friendship. Teleia is derived from the Greek word “teleos” which means the goal or the end of something. All things have a purpose or an end, so in saying that a friendship is grounded on “teleia philia” is in essence to say that the friendship is grounded on a foundation which completes the intended design, purpose, or end of a friendship. In this highest form of friendship therefore, A befriends B for the sake of B, and B befriends A for the sake of A. B is friends with A because B wishes to help A become the best person that A can be, and vice versa. What we find in Christianity is just this form of friendship. Christ laid down his life for his friends. Christ who was God, who could possibly derive NO pleasure or utility from us, befriended us for our sake, and died for us to save us. In my experiences I have come to see that my friendships which are grounded in Christ seem to be the friendships that last for a lifetime. Christ is the rock upon which the house must be built, and WHEN the winds and the storms come the house remains standing. Christ the rock, upon which friendships are built last through the winds and the storms of life. 1 Corinthians 15 in brief dispels the possibility of the Christian truth ever being a lie. For nothing can ever truly stand on a lie. But what we find in Christianity is that even friendships grounded on Christian truth last forever, and complete the intended design, purpose, and end of friendship. Which is why in 1 Corinthians 15:33 we are discouraged against being associated with “bad company”. Bad company may not necessarily be a company of people committing tremendous wickedness — killing, or nothing of that sort. It is simply a company of sin. Sin is “I” in the center. Sin is wanting to be God, wanting people to revolve around your own interests. Sin is selfishness. Friendships with bad company are toxic relationships. They are relationships where A is friends with B, but if B is to become successful, A grows envious of B’s success because the friendship was never about B in the first place, but about A.  “Be not deceived, bad company corrupts good character”. As sin is the disease that deteriorates a person’s soul, so friendship with bad company, grounded on self-interest, on SIN, corrupt a person’s character. On the other hand, friendships grounded on “teleia philia”, on selflessness, Philia or Love, builds up a person’s character!

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