Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his Master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:12-15
Good morning Prayer Team!
When God created us, He created us to be “social creatures.” We were not meant to live in isolation. We crave relationships. A relationship with God is actually a natural craving, not a learned one. We were created to be one with God. And we were created to crave relationships with one another. We seek meaningful relationships—some of us desire marriage, we all desire meaningful friendships. In fact, I dare say that it would be difficult to go through life without at least one good friend.
What is the mark of a good friend? I would say that good friends communicate regularly and communicate well. They know how to deal with conflict (see previous reflection on forgiveness). They know how to keep a secret. They know how to lend an ear and listen. And they know how to offer encouragement and do so frequently. Friends enjoy spending time together.
It seems that friendship is another institution that is breaking down in modern society. If a man is close friends with a woman to whom he is not married, people almost automatically assume there is sexual behavior going on. If a man is really close friends with another man, people may also think there is something inappropriate going on. This is because we’ve lost the ability to have close “intimate” relationships that don’t involve sexuality.
In the Greek language, there are many words for “love.” “Eros” is a romantic love. “Filia” is a friendship love. And “Agape” is a Christ-like, sacrificial love. “Agape” is generally reserved for spouses, parents, children, and in some cases, close friends. Because we have distorted the meaning of “love,” we find it hard to separate a “filia” or “agape” type love from an “eros” love.
Healthy relationships with people of both genders are the sign of a healthy and balanced life. And a true friendship can almost be considered an “artform.” It takes real skill to be a good friend. It takes desire, it takes work. And it takes two. It takes both parties for a friendship to work.
Social media has distorted the concept of friendship. We have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook and other social media. Yet, more people than ever are lonely, despite the fact that they are electronically connected. That’s because the surface relationships formed on social media can’t ever replace the deep and meaningful friendships that we crave. Words do not necessarily convey feelings. And no one has ever been satisfied with “a computer to cry on.” We don’t need hundreds of friends, but a few good ones are essential.
Friendship (from a relationship perspective, since God is not our friend, today’s evaluation is only from a relationship perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do I make friends easily? Do I make it easy for others to befriend me? Do I have close friendships or only surface relationships?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Take some time and reflect on your friendships, on what makes them good, on things that are going well in your friendships and things that can be improved.
Lord, thank You for the gift of friendship. Bless my friendships with (list their names). Help us to grow in friendship. Help me to be a better friend. Amen.
Call a friend today and tell him/her how much the friendship means to you.
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