Friends as spiritual siblings

Spiritual FriendshipIs it possible to say that two people can be friends if they have never met face to face? If so, then Wesley Hill is a friend of mine. Our correspondence over the years has been maintained ever since we became acquainted over the World Wide Web. What I appreciate about Wesley – the man and the writer, for in him lies no apparent discrepancy – is his courageous vulnerability, aesthetic sensitivity, and spiritual vision, which is both faithful and daring: faithful because it is rooted in what C. S. Lewis called the “Deep Church” and daring because it needfully provokes the languid attitude of the contemporary church toward unmarried Christians, who surely qualify among “the least of these” (Mt. 25:40). I had the honor of reviewing his first book, Washed and Waiting, for Christianity Today. His latest book, Spiritual Friendship, follows the trajectory that began in the aforementioned title. He is asking the kind of questions on friendship that have haunted me for years. Although some answers may not be within reach, I am compelled to live these questions with the hope that I may find myself, however gradually,  inside the answers.

 Should we think of friendship as based, above all, on personal preference? Should we think of it as preserving its voluntary character and thereby vulnerable at every point to dissolution if one of the friends grows tired of or burdened by the relationship? Should we consider friendship as always freshly chosen but never incurring any substantial obligations or entailing any unbreakable bonds? Or should we instead—pursuing a rather different line of thought—consider friendship more along the lines of how we think of marriage? Should we begin to imagine friendship as more stable, permanent, and binding than we often do? Should we, in short, think of our friends more like siblings we’re stuck with, like it or not, than like our acquaintances? Should we begin to consider at least some of our friends as, in large measure, tantamount to family? And if so, what needs to change about the way we approach it and seek to maintain it?

Download an excerpt. Read a review by Tim Challies.

Wesley Hill on “Spiritual Friendship” at Biola University Chapel (November 5, 2013)

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