Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Friendship as a Reciprocal Love

In his second chapter, Meilaender poses the challenge of friendship being reciprocal. He demonstrates that in fact friendship love must be reciprocated. This seems like common sense to most. Meilaender then poses the question of how do you handle the idea of reciprocal love in friendship is the Christian is to love his or her enemy. He points out the differences between these two loves, the agape love or Christian self-giving love, and the philia love or friendship reciprocal love.

Meilaender tries to first solve the conflicting ideals of the philia love and agape love through Seneca’s writings. Seneca writes “the wiseman desires friends…if only for the purpose of practicing friendship, in order that his noble qualities may not lie dormant.” (38). This line of thought makes friendship not necessary and says that human beings can be self-sufficient on their own.

Meilaender does not see this as true. He then looks at the Epicurus way of dealing with friendship. Epicurus believes that “the first cause of friendship was man’s needs” (40). He was see that Epicurus is arguing something different than Seneca. Epicurus believes that human beings need friendship. “Friendship, a reciprocal and mutual love, recognizes this truth about our nature: that we need not only to give ourselves in love but also to receive love in return” (41). Here we can hear echoes of the familiar phrase no man is an island. Epicurus wants to argue that part of being human means that we need to give love and receive love and that we are not self-sufficient individuals whom can cut themselves off from others. We see the importance now for philia love, however Meilaender makes a point that we have sharply contrasted agape and philia love.

We see our best form of agape love through the love of God. Only God who is eternal and perfect can continue to give love without needing love in return. God can not fall into the notions of philia and reciprocal love because then God would be dependant on love being reciprocated.

Meilaender places these two loves within Christian possibility when he says: “Christian through cannot make reciprocity a required feature of all love. A mutual love like friendship, however important for human life and well being cannot stand alone. Christian thought knows also a love which does not seek its own.” Here we understand that Christians can know the love of reciprocated friendship love but since they also know the agape love of Christ and aspire to that they must practice both of these types of love. We must succumb to our human nature and our need for others in mutual love, but we as Christians must also “love in a ways which is not dependent on any return.” Here we see the intermingling of philia and agape love.

We see these two loves commingled through Jesus’ Golden Rule: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friend” (50). Another example of the great bridging of the two loves is through the Trinity. Each person in the Trinity Begets freely (agape love) and also receives the love and offers the love back (philia love). Through these two holy models we can begin to understand how these two loves are not so separate as through earlier in the chapter. In fact for Christians, philia and agape love very much must be intertwined in practice.

No comments: