Did you know that there is a United Nations International Day of Friendship? I didn’t. It’s coming up on July 30. I came across it by accident and it set me thinking. The Day was declared in 2011 by the UN General Assembly with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.
The Day places emphasis on involving young people in community activities that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity. A great aim, but I found myself nearer home and wondering what the nature of friendship is. In answer to the question I found myself with a string of words and phrases:
Support, sharing, joys and sorrows, listen to, be listened to, relate to, someone I like, a mate, someone I can turn to, ring up or message, can be myself, lots of laughter, encouragement, rejoicing in each others’ successes , tolerance and space to disagree, respect for each other.
You can probably think of more, but this list shows how active and dynamic friendship is if it is to be kept alive. It’s an on-going relationship that has to be nurtured and watered. Is it not an element in any life partnerships we commit to? You might say that friendship can ‘oil the wheels’ of those commitments.
As reported in John’s Gospel (15:12), Jesus is pretty challenging about friendship. He urges his disciples to love one another as he has loved them and says:”Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It would seem that friendship is an act of service. As Richard Gillard’s hymn goes, “Brother, sister, let me serve you….”