Like Family

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

This year, my summer break started out on a disappointing note: my favorite TV show was cancelled. Fox 31’s House MD went off the air this month after a long run as one of TV’s top dramas. For eight seasons, House told the story of the brilliant but bitter Dr. House who could solve any medical mystery, but was unable to heal any of his own emotional pain. Leading up to the finale, the show featured a story arch in which Dr. House’s best friend, Wilson, learns that he has fatal brain cancer and will die within 5 months. The final episodes dealt with the two friends coming to terms with Wilson’s impending death.  (If you have a few minutes, this clip compiles some of the best lines from the final episodes…it is a powerful statement about friendship!) 

Now I bring House up—not only because I am still mourning the end of the series, but also—because critics have cited it as a “uniquely genuine depiction of friendship.” As the show’s creator, David Shore, has pointed out, the cast was always proud of the House/Wilson friendship because (1) it went beyond a surface level “friendship of convenience” (2) it wasn’t always perfect and they often had to work at staying friends but (3) the two characters genuinely cared about each other’s happiness.

Unfortunately, our society doesn’t depict many friendships like this. Most male/male friendships are reduced to “wingman” set ups, while female/female friendships are portrayed to be riddled with gossip and backstabbing. I think the best term for a friendship like House and Wilson is “fictive kin.” Sociology textbooks define fictive kin as “Nonrelatives whose bonds are strong and intimate.” These would be those friends that we describe as being “like family.”

The bible gives us an interesting depiction of friendship in the form of the disciple John.  From most biblical accounts, John is the only disciple to stay with Jesus all the way through his crucifixion and to death. Perhaps John was curious as to what would happen next—surely he hadn’t put all the pieces together yet—or perhaps he just came to the cross to say good bye. Either way he risked his life to be there with Christ. And when Jesus saw John in the crowd and asked him to protect his mother, John didn’t hesitate, but gave an immediate “yes!”

For John and Jesus, it went beyond a surface level “friendship of convenience.” Being there at the cross couldn’t have been easy. In fact, their whole relationship probably wasn’t always perfect—with Jesus challenging society norms and making a few enemies along the way—surely John had to work at staying friends with Christ.  But in the end, John and Jesus genuinely cared about each other’s happiness, even when there was nothing John could do to help his friend. 

Author Max Lucado claims John, “teaches us that the greatest webs of loyalty are spun not with airtight theologies or foolproof philosophies, but with friendships; stubborn, selfless, joyful friendships.” (No Wonder They Call Him the Savior)

Stubborn, selfless, and joyful friendships…you know the type. Those friends that you can go months without talking to yet meet for coffee any day and pick up where you left off; those friends that somehow call you at the exact moment you needed to hear from someone; those friends that always know exactly what to say to make you smile; those friends that feel “like family.”

Is friendship perhaps what the world needs more of? Could we benefit from fewer “wingmen” and more “best friends”? Could we make a difference with less gossip and more laughter?

Christ himself talks of friendship in his final moments. He says, “ My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15: 12-13.) And in the following hours Christ goes even one step further to lay his life down and prove his friendship.

This a peculiar point in the Gospel. Based on these words, Christ’s crucifixion proves He is not only a King, not only the Lord, and not only God, but proves He is a friend. Think about that…God wants to be our friend. 

Over the past year, I’ve had a lot of people at school asking me “what is Christianity all about?” I think it really comes down to this one word: Friendship! We have a God who wants us to experience stubborn, selfless, joyful friendship. He wants us to pick up where we left off, and call at the exact moment, and put a smile on each other’s faces. And he also wants to be our friend.  And it’s through this friendship with Christ that we are all “like family.”

I hope in the next few days you get a chance to call a friend or maybe meet for coffee. Perhaps you can give someone a hug or a high five or remind your “fictive kin” how much you care about them. And if your schedule is busy or you’re on the run, may you be blessed by friendship and feel the love of Christ wherever you go and in whatever you are doing.

Dear God. Thank you for friendship. Thank you for leading us to people who can we laugh and love life with. Watch over our friends and our families this day, God. May they know that we love them and may they feel your love in their lives. Keep them safe and sound, happy and healthy, until we meet in again. We love you God. In your name we pray, amen!

Zach Herzog

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