We take the term “friendship” from the fourth Gospel of John. Mutual relationships are central to him and they are often dismissed as complicated. A relationship therefore takes place on different levels and it is always about more than just you and me. It is about God, about Jesus, his disciples, all over the world, and about the Spirit, and that is where the mutual relationships are situated. I outline a few examples.
God so loved the world that he sent his only Son (John 3,16); That son is compared to the Logos in the prologue of the fourth gospel (John 1,1-18). The Son has a special relationship with the people and the Father and as a result people are also connected with the Father, think of the vine metaphor (John 15,1-11). That son also instructs people to love one another, and to give their life for the friends (John 15,12-16), after which He also says that his disciples are his friends and asks them to bring forth fruits that will remain. Even when he is no longer there, he will send the other Helper, who is anchored in Him, the Spirit of truth who will guide his disciples, but for which the world is not waiting (John 14-16-17; 16,13 -15)
Jesus is sometimes compared to the Wisdom of God from the OT, as the highest development of the Logos, as the word of God. That wisdom, as creative love, seeks a place to dwell among people and make them friends of God. (Wisdom 7.27)
How can we interpret those relationships and that friendship? We have all become children of God through the shared Father. It connects us as brothers and sisters. Those siblings have a spiritual bond, and never stand alone. It is a common fact. To know ourselves as children of God means to form fellowship with others. That is the basis for the friendship as Jesus explained it to his disciples. The evangelical friendship has several characteristics:
- Equality and reciprocity: friends serve each other and every inequality is eliminated, think of the washing of the feet (John 13,1-20)
- It exists only in shared free love, which continues to develop. In religious life this is reflected in the sharing of life, of poverty, of chastity and obedience towards each other; complete dependence on each other.
- Every friendship also points at individuals, friendship is between people and is highly dependent on the people in question. Where we can feel a love for humanity or the world, friendship goes to the individual person.
This means that religious communities, who dare to be guided by friendship as Jesus prescribed them, presuppose a life that can be shared with each other, where structures of dominance and hierarchy are reversed or undermined. And that from the lived friendship from Jesus, His Father and His Helper, the Spirit of truth, a mission to the world is requested that has a love for the whole earth.
Also with regard to mission we notice a big difference between, for example, the missionary story of Matthew: ‘going to the ends of the earth and making all nations Mine’, and the missionary story with John: “Peace be to you: as the Father has sent me so I will send you, and he breathed on them them, saying, Take up, the breath of the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive will be forgiven, those whom you hold fast, they have been held. ” (John 20: 21-23)
Living in a community of friendship and equality is primary. If that is right, the inspiration works in such a way that it can awaken in others a desire of peace, of friendship. An ecological commitment and a prophetic mission are logical consequences that flow from it.
The friendship that is typical of a Christian religious community aims to inspire many. In this way, fellowship becomes a sign and testimony in a world that sometimes seems to be confused about faith, hope, or love.