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Book review: What Does the Bible Say About Friendship?

Marie Anne Torres

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

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What Does the Bible Say About Friendship? (New City Press, 2019) is a sweet and insightful book written by Sr. Laurie Brink, OP. It delves into the idea of friendship — why it’s important, how it helps us grow, and how it ultimately honours God — as exemplified by the Scriptures. It also explores the various kinds of friendships: those existing between companions, husband and wife, parent and child, as well as God and His beloved children.
Even though we experience friendship in some form every day, we often don’t stop to ponder our relationships and their significance. This book is laced with many great reflections that help us do just that. For example, as one of its main themes, the book examines how friendship with others points us to friendship with God Himself.
Sr. Laurie's many wonderful insights are rooted in passages from the Old and New Testaments. I'd like to spotlight for you my favourite five!
1. “[T]he actual word for ‘friend’—re‘a in the Hebrew or philos in the Greek—occurs only a couple hundred times in the Bible and is found mostly in a collection of writings we call Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, and Ben Sira). These books are unique in their theological perspective. As New Testament scholar Barbara Bowe has noted, Wisdom Literature presents God’s revelation not primarily in historical events but in the ordinariness of life.”
I enjoyed how Sr. Laurie highlights the idea that friendship occurs in the “ordinariness of life”. It’s in the everyday that we experience and discover this beautiful gift of communion with others. It reminds me to examine the relationships in my life and not to bypass the importance of small, daily moments and interactions.
2. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)”
In the first chapter, Sr. Laurie calls upon this passage to remind us of why friendships of the deepest kind are so important. God-filled friendships enable us not only to grow mutually but also to be lifted and encouraged in times of need and struggle. How relevant this verse is in today’s times!
3. “In John 15:12, Jesus gives the disciples one command — that they love one another as he has loved them. Jesus doesn’t use the standard Greek word for friendship love (philia). He uses agape.”
I love this point! In the Greek language, there were three variations of love: eros, philia, and agape; agape being the strongest. Agape is the love that we are to have for God, but it’s also the same love that Jesus instructs us to have for one another! This type of love is all-sacrificial and involves a total giving of oneself for the other. The universality with which we are asked to apply this type of love is especially beautiful — and the book’s clarification enables us to understand Jesus’ words all the more.
4. “Agape was so foundational to early Christianity that the meals held within the community were known as ‘agapeic’ to emphasize the fellowship among the believers.”
Sr. Laurie includes many interesting historical notes about biblical times throughout her book which serve to deepen our understanding of Scripture. I particularly enjoyed this one about the first communities of believers — what a lovely concept! Perhaps we can bring this concept back today? I wouldn’t mind!
5. “Likewise, friendship with God presumes we share with God the same desire, the same vision for the world and for all of creation. In our tradition that shared vision is the reign (or kingdom) of God. ”
This was my favourite quote from Sr. Laurie’s last chapter about friendship with God. It describes a union with God that, similarly to friendship with another person, seeks after the same thing. A friendship with God means that together with Him, in mutual partnership, we desire the good of His Kingdom and to do His will!
In all, What Does the Bible Say About Friendship? is a wisdom-filled book that will enable you to reflect on friendship in all its forms, as well as learn of the Scriptures' take on this wonderful gift!

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