Jesus as the supreme friend shows us the way. We do all we can to help our friends not because they demand it of us. We do it because we want to. The disciples were far from perfect. Time and time again they failed Jesus and each other. Yet Jesus continued to accept them and to love them. Spiritual friends give each other the gift of unconditional love. Jesus was not ashamed to have a feast with Matthew and his tax collector friends even though He was criticised for doing so Matthew — True friends are committed to each other through thick and thin. Friends share what they have learned about God and His Word with each other.
However, their teaching and learning is not an academic exercise. While holding to the authority of the Scriptures, they share how those Scriptures have been lived out in the struggles of their shared lives. You are a dangerous trap to me. True friends love each other enough to correct the other if needed. The human heart is indeed deceitful above all things Jeremiah Our friends help keep us honest. They challenge us lovingly when we are dishonest with ourselves and they keep us accountable to our desire to follow Christ. Stay here and keep watch with me. But when people.
There is another way for desire to become ordered: same object, different expression. People who long for same-sex love and intimacy should maybe be encouraged to learn how to do that, since it is good, and holy, and beautiful. However, Aelred also treats sexual sin—particularly homosexual sin—as a distorted form of friendship.
But it is not just that distorted friendship can lead to sexual sin; the most important point we took from Aelred was that rightly ordered friendship can be a school of virtue, including the virtue of chastity. In the summary of Catholic teaching just linked, I wrote:.
There are at least two ways of thinking about a relationship like this. These sexual feelings are directed to the wrong object. These specifically sexual desires cannot be fulfilled in this relationship; the true purpose of this relationship is spiritual friendship.
Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian by Wesley Hill
It is more in keeping with the priority of love in Christian ethics and anthropology, and also makes more sense in light of the teaching cited above. Consider the challenge of inculcating the virtue of chastity during adolescence. But for straight adolescents, we try to point them toward healthy ways of expressing their desire to be loved and to love, and steer them away from danger.
If the Church only emphasizes the sinfulness of homosexual sex or even desire , we give adolescents struggling with sexual desires for their own sex no guidance about how to cultivate well-ordered loves. The fact that most of us will have to abstain from romantic and sexual relationships for life creates unique pastoral challenges.
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Christian teaching on friendship provides important resources for addressing these concerns. We understand the turn to spiritual friendship as an Augustinian purification that turns toward a real good, not as a Freudian sublimation that tries to keep as much disordered libido as we can without crossing a line. Vocation or Identity? In a letter to a friend , C. Lewis affirmed the traditional view that all homosexual sex is sinful.
As God is increasingly marginalized in our culture, fewer and fewer people understand their life as a response to a call from God; instead, they seek to create their own subjective identity. But this is not how we see ourselves. Most Spiritual Friendship writers acknowledge an enduring pattern of same-sex sexual temptations. But rather than understanding this as the core of our identity, we have sought to reframe our self-understanding in light what the Bible and Christian tradition teach about human love and human sexuality.
Desire vs. If he is saying that when our sanctification is complete in heaven, there will be no possibility of homosexual sin, then I agree. But if we are talking about life on earth, then he is holding out a standard that neither Augustine nor Calvin would expect to be met in any other struggle with temptation and sin.
In City of God , however, Augustine recognized that even good men will struggle with temptation throughout life, at some times more intensely, at others less so. Those who entered the monasteries brought the language of courtly love with them, transposing and transforming it into a Christian spirituality of love. His treatise On Spiritual Friendship is presented in the form of dialogues or imaginary conversations berween himself and three other monks. These are probably based on actual discussions or on the difficulties Aelred had encountered in his ministry as abbot.
This literary format makes him easy to read.
Ideally, friendship becomes a form of charity when it meets with a reciprocal response, so it is based on mutuality. In Christian friendship each one shares, each listens, each gives and receives; it is an adult relationship. In this treatise Aelred rarely refers to spiritual paternity, and usually such references are in relation to his official role as abbot.
He says that the reciprocal response we encounter in these relationships is a microcosmic image of what we shall discover eternally in God. For Aelred, God is pure reciprocity, and in heaven we shall know what this is in all its fulness. Ivo asks Aelred if we could say of friendship what John, the intimate friend of Jesus, says of charity, that God is friendship?
Of course, prayer is an intrinsic part of this relationship. We carry our friend with us in the deepest part of our being where God is found. Criteria for discernment Not all friendship is spiritual. There is such a thing as friendship based on agreement to do evil, e. Aelred acknowledges this reality and provides sound criteria for us to discern whether or not our friendship has a spiritual basis. In the initial stages of friendship he suggests we focus on four criteria:.
So, we should be asking ourselves questions like: What kind of relationship do we intend to establish? What are our deeper motives? Do we value this relationship as gift, or are we seeking some reward other than the friendship itself? For Aelred all the advantages of friendship are secondary by comparison with the value of the relationship itself.
Because friendship is a precious gift, we should be discerning about those whom we choose as friends, and not establish relationships based on either mere whim or animal attraction! This element of choice would seem to be a bit strange.