Saturday, 19 November 2011

Friends (coda)

Although I posted yesterday’s entry as the third and last in a series on friends, my restless mind has caused me to think of biblical texts about friendship.So here is my coda.

One such text is in a psalm of lament.  It begins with the words

“Hear my prayer O G-d;
Do not hide yourself from my petition.
Listen to me and answer me;
I have no peace because of my cares”

We all know that feeling.  It’s the feeling that G-d is not  listening to us despite our cares.

The Psalm goes on to speak of betrayal.

"For had it been an adversary who taunted me,
then I could have borne it;
or had it been an enemy who vaunted himself against me,
then I could have hidden from him.
But it was you, a man after my own heart,
my companion, my own familiar friend."

The quotations are from Psalm 55  (do read the whole thing!). 

The Psalm bears powerful witness to the human feelings of desperation when people are betrayed by their nearest and dearest.  

In that sense it is a very contemporary Psalm.  It reminds us that the bible is not just about G-d, Jesus, salvation and all those good things.  It is also about human experience.

On the other hand:

1. The New Testament book of James (Chapter 2 v25) speaks of Abraham as a “friend of G-d”. That, at one and the same time, is an entirely preposterous and an entirely wonderful assertion.  Dare we believe that G-d desires and enjoys our friendship?

2. The Old Testament Book of Ruth is predicated n the fabulous friendship/loyalty between Ruth (a Moabite foreigner) and her Israelite mother in law Naomi.

Hear again some words from Ruth to her mother in law, (as translated in the Authorised/King James version of the bible, Ruth 1:16/17).

“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee;
for whither thou goest I will go;
and whither thou lodgest  I will lodge;
thy people shall be my people,
and thy G-d my G-d:
where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried."

3. There is also the deeply moving story of the friendship between Jonathan (son of Israel’s first king, Saul); and David, the man who will usurp Saul.

Dynastic and familial ties abandoned, Jonathan cares more for his friendship with David than for his filial loyalty.

The Scripture employs such tender language as it speaks of David’s lament upon Jonathan’s death:

“How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!......
...I am distressed for thee my brother Jonathan:
very pleasant hast thou been unto me:
thy love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women”  (2 Samuel 1:26-27)

4. The Gospel according to John refers to “the disciple who Jesus loved” (John 13:23), the disciple who “reclined on Jesus’ breast”.

No New Testament scholar has been able to name beyond doubt this “beloved disciple”:- (was it John?,  was it Lazarus?”)

That matters not. What matters is that the Gospel bears witness to a tender and intimate love between Jesus and one of the disciples. 

How blessed are we humans when we experience and enjoy tender and intimate love in gorgeous friendships! "For the bible told me so"

P.S.  Any suggestion that the friendships between Ruth and Naomi; between David and Jonathan; and between Jesus and the beloved disciple, are in some way analogous to our modern understanding of same-sex (lesbian or homosexual) relationships is no more than wishful thinking.

Throughout history, and in the bible, men have loved men and women have loved women. It’s only in recent years that the culture has determined that these human loves should be tagged as “lesbian” or “gay”. 

To that I say “phoeey!”

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