For The Love Of Friends

The Gospel of John provides us with Christ’s view on friendship – ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’. 

This notion of friendship as a sacrificial bond, generated in a loving concourse, is the account of friendship we must endeavour to return to.  This agape love, a love given regardless of material obligation, forfeiting the power of eros and the lusts, is the most pure and simple friendship possible. When we truly treat others as an end in-and-of themselves, when we sacrifice for them, go through pain for them, and yet never have the expectation of reward. This is the purest agape. This is the love Christ showed to man to redeem them, and provided as a path to redeem them from sin. It is our duty to emulate it.

This loving friendship, that turns from one friend to another and multiplies love, is the most powerful of all.

The great poet Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote ‘ If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk through my garden forever’. Only recently would this be assumed to be referring to an eros, or an entirely sexual love. The romantic love that we should all strive to find is located, in the purest sense, in adoration as an end, not a sexual means. The process of falling in love has become so maligned, so muddied, that often now we only realise we were in true agape love when they have departed. This is perhaps the greatest casualty of the short termist, pleasure economy of interaction the modern world has become. 

Leaving aside the romantic, we must now engage with one of the greatest evils venturing out against agape love in the modern age, the need for all to achieve perfection. The modern age must be reminded of Lewis’ clear-cut notion on forgiveness – ‘To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you’. We are all fallen. All are sinners. The core question when one commits a sin is not, how horrific for sinning, but is there a real sense of sorrow, of repentance? As society has secularised, forgiveness has been harder to come by, even with the most astounding levels of apology and despair. There are obviously some sins which one may forgive, but are too grave to maintain a friendship over. However, these are rarely the reasons for the ostracisation of friends today.

The cancel culture which surrounds ‘unsayable’ political opinions is truly the most repugnant rejection of the Categorical Imperative. It encourages us to see others simply as the collection of their worst moments, never mentioning the tens of years spent living perfectly acceptable, and often very moral, lives. What makes this even worse is that the people who cancel these, often lovely and caring, people over deeply held views, also go after their friends.

When someone attempted to cancel me, in May this year, I was utterly humbled to see my friends commenting and fighting my corner with a passion that reflected no regard for their own wellbeing. They did so well that the first post was removed, as was the more offensive and libellous second. Seeing this occur was the warmest of feelings for me; great, decades long friendships had stood up and been counted in their hundreds to reject the total assassination of my character. But the second, and harsher, realisation was that a lot of people do not have such a base of friends to stand up for them. If this man had attempted to destroy the life of another, less known, figure in the church or conservative movement, the effects may have been utterly abhorrent. The key behind all of this is the utter ‘othering’ of those who disagree with a certain world view, seen across the spectrum of political life, the removal of the humanity of those for whom it is convenient to totally nullify. Then their depression from verbal assaults, their suicide, does not matter to those who threw the stones that broke them. This utter degradation of human life is the darkest element of this cancelling movement, and can be seen in the rise of any fascist or communist movement. We must give them nothing, or they will take from us everything.

Some of my greatest friends are avowed socialists, and for this I am immensely glad. Because agape friendship can permeate through superficial differences. If your aim in politics is to sincerely deliver the most loving option, then you are in the right book, I just fear you are on the wrong page.

So, ladies and gentleman, for the sake of everyone, we must renew our bonds of agape friendship. When we see a friend caught on the barbed wire of modern society, it is our duty to rush over to them, give them words of comfort, and propel them over the barbs.

 In the words of Michael Novak ‘Love is a willingness to sacrifice’, please show yours when your friends need you the very most.

Alex Honey, Chairman 2019-2021