A Friendly Kind of Love
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
This statement of Jesus from John 15 has become so familiar that it's easy to miss what's really being said. In context it is saying that there is no greater kind of love than friendship. Not brotherly, or sisterly, or parental or devotional or altruistic love. Friendship tops them all. The rest of the chapter contains equally important and related statements that are seldom quoted. Here's the whole thing:
This is a relationship of equals, the highest form of love that Jesus can offer his disciples. It is also worth noting that at other times when Jesus greets someone, even Judas, it is as "Friend." Never as Brother or Sister, for instance. As a matter of fact, Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Of course, if a brother is also a friend, that changes everything.
A couple of other things worth noting from the Bible: Exodus 33:11 says "And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." And in the Book of James it says that Abraham was called the "Friend of God." Obviously this term was used on purpose to convey a very high kind of mutual love.
In modern times a psychological study of happiness showed that it was mostly attained by people with at least one close relationship and a circle of supporting friends. An apparent anomaly in the study was that soap opera buffs tended to rank higher in happiness than non-buffs, and it has been suggested that the buffs think of the actors as their friends. The friends don't have to be people, either. Other studies show that people with pets as friends tend to be not only happier, but healthier, too.
Is there a difference between friendship and love? Apparently not. In Middle English the word "friend" means "lover," and it stems from a word in Old Gothic meaning "to love." If anything, it implies a deeper kind of love, one that goes beyond obligation.
Hawaiians had many terms for "friend" that signified varying degrees and types of friendship. Hoaloha (beloved companion), for example, is a general term for friend. Makamaka (face to face) is a friend with whom you share freely. Aikane (probably "dependable") is a close, personal friend of the same sex. Pilialoha (sticky love) is a romantic friend. And here's a great one: 'au ko'i (axe handle), a trusted friend.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said "The only way to have a friend is to be one." But many people have trouble making friends because they don't know how to be one. So here is a set of guidelines to help you remember:
The Hawaiians made such an art of this that I'll end with one of their proverbs describing a good friendship:
Me ke aloha pumehana i ko'u kini hoaloha - with warm regards to my many friends.
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Copyright by Aloha International 2001