I don’t think friendship allows people to have hidden agendas. To love someone, especially as God does, means to love them as they are, not how you would want them to be. Friendship, in this regard holds a very sacred context. I am very particular about who I call my friends. In my time around churches, ministries, and schools I have seen great betrayal happen in the name of friendship. I have seen friends betray their “friends” in trying to convert them. I have seen friends betray their “friends” because they didn’t believe the same as them. This is why, to me, friendship, is meant to be safe and unifying space rather than a place for me to manipulate the other person into becoming more like me. I believe that we can be friends to those who don’t have a space for God in their life, but it comes with the other understanding that I am not going to push this on them. It is simply the statement that I am going to love them as they are, and not control them into who I want them to be. This also means to me that my closest friendships should be the ones, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer notes, where Jesus is in between us. Friendship ought to be the place where I can give all of me, and that same gift of our personhood should be returned with the same life mediated back and forth by Jesus.
Friendship has appeared to me, in the deepest sense, that we are headed in the same direction, and that we are coming alongside every direction if that person’s life. When we read the Bible, we read about how the communities in the New Testament had to sell everything for each other, they were accountable for people in their own community, and they were called to live life together. I have found in my own life that pouring my spiritual problems (the inter-connectedness of all of my life) to someone who isn’t interested in the replenishment of that, not only creates awkward dilemmas for them, but I am given disconnected solutions myself. This state of covenant oneness in which I am responsible for you, and you are responsible for me, it seems to me, the only way in which true growth can happen in friendship. Otherwise, all I have are conditional relationships, where I have them along for a single purpose. But, the level of bonding cannot be the same as we are not one into the connectedness of our lives. This oneness, this bonding, creates holy ground, and deep personal growth for the individuals involved.
“A friend is more than a therapist or confessor, even though a friend can sometimes heal us and offer us God’s forgiveness. A friend is that other person with whom we can share our solitude, our silence, and our prayer. A friend is that other person with whom we can look at a tree and say, “Isn’t that beautiful,” or sit on the beach and silently watch the sun disappear under the horizon. With a friend we don’t have to say or do something special. With a friend we can be still and know that God is there with both of us.”-Henri Nouwen