• Hughson T. Ong

On Faith and Friendship: Better Have a Dog as Your Friend

Let me begin with a few statements about what I think friendship means today. I should say that I don’t think all friendships today are like this, but this is an illustration of how friendship has devolved into from its olden meaning.

The idea of being a friend to someone is overrated.

Praising and praying for someone while trash talking and stabbing them in the back is not friendship. A friend will always cherish and defend you.

Friendship has become virtually a one-way street.

This is clear when one has genuine intentions in helping and supporting a person, but once their friend has resolved the issue or achieved their objective, you’re done—there’s no more use of you. I mean, they’ll keep you around and still be civil (obviously), but the continuous cherishment and value of the relationship are gone. There’s no reciprocity, and what’s worse, power-playing and politicking starts to brew immediately. True friendship should be a two-way street because it is a relationship.

Friendship has become more about networking and connection and less about a reciprocal relationship.

People tend to be friends with people from whom they can benefit. And what’s wrong with that? Well, aside from the fact that the motive is superficial, seeking for self-benefit in a relationship while rationalizing how you’re going to “appear” as a friend to them is clearly wrong. It’s like pursuing a marriage because you want to be “married” to their social status, financial security, and family background rather than because you actually love your partner.

This is why people tend to build friendships with those who have multiplex and vast networks. This is also why people will sacrifice friendship in exchange for something else they value more than their friend. But a friend will always be loyal to you.

Friendship has become a power play.

The more “powerful” and “influential” friend will not stoop down to their less powerful and influential friend. Social media is a prime example. How often do you find someone who has more followers than you to like your posts or follow you, even though you share great ideas? Even worse, they’ll shamelessly take your ideas, tweak them, and use and share them as their own. But a friend doesn’t engage in power playing and will always help and support you.

Welcome to the real world, right?

Sure. I get that. But it still doesn’t get away with the above facts about contemporary friendship. Better call a friend something else—boss, colleague, mentor, resource person, acquaintance, classmate, officemate, someone I know, etc.

So, what does friendship have to do with faith?

The New Testament is replete with verses about friendship (e.g. Mt. 11:19; Jn. 11:11; 15:14; Jas. 2:23). The model of genuine friendship is when Jesus laid down his life for his friends (Jn. 15:13; Rom. 5:6-8)—this was the original, ultimate meaning of friendship. How this meaning devolved into a utilitarian relationship throughout history does not justify how we practice friendship today nor does it suggest ignoring the kind of friendship modeled in olden times.

The most common term for “friend” in the New Testament is the Greek philos, which translates to something like “one who loves.” It’s no wonder that Jesus taught about the two greatest commandments, because true friendship ultimately manifests itself in one’s relationship with God and others. And so, if this is the case, then fake friendship becomes evident through the act of taking advantage.

I read an interesting tweet the other day, and it goes something like this:

“This is Sonny. He’s one of my bestest friends. He’s 14 which in dogs years translates as “not long for this world.” And his greatest weakness is that he thinks everyone is his friend. I wish I had more friends like Sonny.”

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