There are those who maintain that friendship is as important as any moral virtue. “Without friends,” a respected wise man said, “no one would choose to live, though he possessed all the other goods.” Friendships are important.
Not all friendships, however, are alike – just as not all allies with nations are alike. Governments generally have two types of allies – “Necessary Allies” and “Strategic Allies.” Necessary Allies only because of something a government can gain from the relationship. And Strategic Allies who share common values, concerns, vision, activity and buy-in because of the good their relationship brings to each other. In broad terms there are three types of friendship. Friendships of utility, pleasure, and virtue.
The friendship of utility is the lowest type of friendship as it exists for the sake of some external or material benefit. A businessman, for example, who strikes up “friendships” with other businessmen to help promote each other’s products, is a friendship of utility. “Those who draw together for mere temporal profit, have no right to call their union friendship; it is not for love of one another that they unite, but for love of gain.” (Francis de Sales)
The friendship of pleasure is the second type. People involved with others at this level most often share some common interests and generally enjoy one another’s company. Yet still there is something lacking.
The friendship of virtue is the highest type of friendship. At this level people love others not for what they can gain but for what they can mutually give. (Eccl. 4:9-10) They genuinely care about the other person. The friendship of David and Jonathan in I Samuel 20:1-17 is a wonderful example. They were true soulmates.
King Saul was deeply jealous of David and wanted to kill him to get him out of his life. Ironically, Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s best friend. It was a friendship of virtue. They had promised before the Lord to remain loyal to each other and protect one another’s back. David now needed Jonathan’s support. Jonathan told David, “If he wants to harm you, I promise to tell you and help you escape.” (v:13) And he did. “And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.” (v:17) A few verses later we read, “And Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.” (23:16) In friendships of virtue people are there for each other and find it easy to share common interests and goals.
The first two types of friendship are not bad, however, based on utility and pleasure alone, they are incomplete and less enduring. Friendships of virtue, on the other hand, create a relationship much larger than oneself and make a deep connection that goes the distance. (Prov. 17:17)
“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Eccl. 4:12 NLT)
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group / Loads of Love
Romans 5:10-11; I Chronicle 12:17-18; Job 2:11-13; Prov. 17:9; 18:24; 27:9, 17; John 15:15