The 8 Key Character Traits of True Friendship in the Life of Jesus
The term “authentic” has become one of those trendy buzzwords among the up and coming generations. Unfortunately, its redundant use and elusive definition spell little more than a platitude to most. Yet there is something so right about “authenticity.”
Should we then despair to attain to true authenticity in our relationships? Not at all.
We need to think about relationships more holistically, both more elaborately and simply at the same time. If authenticity describes a state of being, then it must describe how someone, some people, or some relationship “is”.
Jesus exuded eight characteristics of authentic friendship. These surely are not exhaustive, but I think a good start for sure.
Above all, Jesus displayed a remarkable presence. Believe it or not, the entire Christian faith is predicated on it. Jesus’ incarnation, God becoming man, walking among mankind, and living with them lay at the epicenter of Christian thought. Jesus enters our world; he condescends (literally descending from heaven), yet he is not condescending.
Jesus comes to live, walk, to dine, and even die like us. God thrusts himself deep into the muck and the fray of our daily lives. He was as soiled with the realities of humanity as we are, yet without sin. He did this literally and physically in his incarnation. He does it every day with us by the Spirit
One of the great monastic spiritual classics is Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. What is true for God is true for all our relationships; we must practice presence in our relationships.
Today it is all too easy to be in the room and yet someplace else. As much as technology distracts us, it is not the root cause. There is one thing the upsets true presence in our relationships—that is the preoccupation with self. A “self-absorbed” or “self-focused” posture—the inherent predilection to put ourselves and our own self-interest first, forms the stress-fractures in all relationships.
Trust is a very fragile bubble floating invisibly between persons; it is too easily bobbled and shattered on the ground. No relationship is possible apart from it, and every relationship has been wrecked by disregarding it.
The opposite of trust is not distrust per se, but fear. Fear in our relationships makes us skeptical, wary, and distrustful towards each other. It leaves us bobbing around in circuitous dances as we dodge, duck, and evade each other all the while veneered in the smiles of social graces.
Jesus did not do this. He did join the Devil’s dance. He was present, trusting, transparent, and truth-telling. Not mincing words, Jesus spoke the reality of his relationships without fear
The key to understanding trust is that it really is NOT earned, but in fact, freely given. The worldly idea that trust is earned really keeps the other at arm’s length, in a state of semi-alienation until they have “proven” themselves. Yet how long until we mess up? It is inevitable. This is conditional trust and therefore this is conditional love too. Jesus “risked” relationship. To risk relationship, is to risk trust, and to risk trust is to risk intimacy.
Transparency is birthed by trust, especially trust that is given, not earned. To be transparent is the willingness to risk the cost and blessings of intimacy.
The soil where transparency grows is the redeemed heart, where fear no longer reigns. Fear clouds relationship; fear increase opacity. The impenetrability to see each other in our relationships rise in proportion to the fear between us. As fear rises, it is like the smoke of a house fire—it begins white, grows grey, until becoming black until the ability to “see” each other it blotted out fully.
Fear creates darkness! Death and hell, not so ironically, are always represented by darkness and blackness by Jesus. It is also why God, the Gospel, and the Kingdom of God are associated with light (which is transparent)!
- Honesty / Truth-telling
When Adam first ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, what did he immediately do? He ran and hid from God. The light was gone—darkness had settled. Darkness became man’s new abode, his new nature. In sinning, we ran for the cover of darkness among the trees.
There was no more truth-telling in him. There was just darkness, opacity, lying, and therefore no presence. And so what did he do? He ran from the presence of God.
John 3:19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
What does God do? God goes in search of his friend. He calls out saying, “Adam, where are you?” God goes in search of presence and intimacy, but he finds the fear-full man hiding in darkness. It is at this point that the man’s friend begins truth-telling. “How did you know you were naked?” “What have you done?” Truth-telling is painful.
Continue on to Part 2 https://apostlesri.org/authentic-friendship-part-2/