What Kind Of Friend Are You?



In the New Testament the term FRIEND is usually written as φίλος (philos) — and its variant φίλους (philous)  meaning “loving, friendly”  Its full meaning according to Strong is “dear, i.e. A friend; actively, fond.” Jesus regularly uses the term to describe His disciples and followers.

This is especially true in John 15:13f : Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (NIV).”

The word Ἑταῖρε (Hetaire) is used in scripture 3 times, however, all are polite (almost as a nicety) but non-intimate. The term means “a companion, comrade, mate, or partner.”

It is used in Matthew 20:13, when the owner of the vineyard is speaking to a worker who is complaining about his wages: “Friend . . . are you envious because I am generous?” This is clearly not one with an intimate relationship. The term seems to be used, if anything, to soften a reprimand.

In the second occasion of use, a king uses the term to address a wedding guest who has arrived improperly attired for the occasion.  Again, we see the polite formal use of the word: “‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend (MT 22:11 NIV).” There is no warmth here, as the ruler then orders the man to be bound and cast out.

It is with this background, that that we come its third and most interesting use in Matthew 26:49-50. “Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him (NIV).”  Judas was one of the twelve, he had been with him throughout the ministry, and he even carried the purse for the company (John 12:6, John 13:29).

There was an interesting article from some 25 years ago or so, which noted a parallel tothe usage Judas recieves, and how unreliable members ANC were addressed in South Africa.  While, I will venture no opinion on this reference, it does draw to attention that someone can be a partner in an enterprise or fellow-travellers in a movement, and still not be “friends” with their fellows, or in total league with the their goals and purposes.

Is it no less so in the church? Can we be partners, fellow -travellers or colleagues with the people of God, and still be non-intimates?  Are we Friends (in deep loving relationship) or Comrades (business associates)? Is our mind that of our Master and His people or of our own? Is our attitude: “What’s in it for me?” rather  “What can I do for you?”

Something to consider my φίλους.




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