“Friendship is agreement with kindliness and affection about things human and divine.”
I’ve been blessed with good friends.
Particularly friends who are fellow pastors.
There was a time in my life when I thought I was fine on my own and could handle things alone. I had moved to a different state, returned to school full-time, and hadn’t heard from my so-called friends for a while. I was out of sight and felt like I was out of mind. Therefore, I decided I didn’t need anyone.
So went the lie.
What I’ve come to realize over the last several years is the value of friendship. That starts at home as my wife and I cultivate friendship with one another. In my church, I’m surrounded by those I count as close friends. And beyond my own church, God has blessed me with a network of men in the ministry who are faithful brothers. Though we are scattered geographically, we are close relationally.
Over the last two months I’ve been impressed by the thoughts of Augustine on the idea of friendship. Honestly, when I’ve thought of Augustine in the past, I’ve imagined a more private individual, alone with his books, a writing instrument, and something to write on. That is, he was tucked away in an ivory tower where he could produce books like De Trinitate or The Confessions, or one of his many anti-Pelagian works.
That, however, is not the picture you should have of Augustine. As Peter Brown notes, “Augustine will never be alone.” Augustine is often with his friends and, when he becomes the Bishop of Hippo, we find he is a busy pastor dealing with people. This monumental figure forges his theology in the fires of personal relationships and pastoral ministry (for a terrific biography of Augustine, see the work of Peter Brown).
Therefore, in an effort to encourage you (and me) to pursue friendships, I’ll leave you with Augustine and a few of his thoughts on friendship.
10 Thoughts from Augustine on Friendship
- “In this world two things are essential: a healthy life and friendship. God created humans so that they might exist and live: this is life. But if they are not to remain solitary, there must be friendship.” (Sermon 299)
- “What gives us consolation in this human society filled as it is with errors and troubles, if not the sincere loyalty and mutual love of true and good friends?” (City of God)
- “…the more friends we have and the more dispersed they are in different places, the further and more widely extend our fears that some evil may befall them from among all the mass of evils of this present world.” (City of God)
- “For if their life brought us the consoling delights of friendship, how could it be that their death should bring us no sadness?” (City of God)
- “The philosophies hold the view that the life of the wise man should be social; and in this we support them much more heartily. For here we are, with the nineteenth book in hand on the subject of the City of God; and how could that city have made its first start, how could it have advanced along its course, how could it attain its appointed goal, if the life of the saints were not social.” (City of God)
- “You only love your friend truly, after all, when you love God in your friend, either because he is in him, or in order that he may be in him. That is true love and respect. There is no true friendship unless You weld it between souls that cling together by the charity poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.” (Confessions)
- “The friendship which draws human beings together in a tender bond is sweet to us because out of many minds it forges a unity.” (Confessions)
- “If your delight is in souls, love them in God, because they too are frail and stand firm only when they cling to him. If they do not, they go their own way and are lost. Love them, then, in him and draw as many with you to him as you can. Tell them, ‘He is the one we should love. He made the world and he stays close to it.’ For when he made the world he did not go away and leave it. By him it was created and in him it exists. Where we taste the truth, God is there. He is in our very inmost hearts, but our hearts have strayed from him.” (Confessions)
- “The first thing that you should observe is how the love involved in friendship ought to be gratuitous. I mean, the reason you have a friend, or love one, ought not to be so that he can do something for you; if that’s why you love him, so that he can get you some money, or some temporal advantage, then you aren’t really loving him, but the thing he gets for you. A friend is to be loved freely, for his own sake, not for the sake of something else. If the rule of friendship urges you to love human beings freely for their own sake, how much more freely is God to be loved, who bids you love other people! There can be nothing more delightful than God. I mean, in people there are always things that cause offence; still, through friendship you force yourself to put up with things that offend you in a person, for the sake of friendship. So if you ought not to break the ties of friendship with a human being just because of some things in him you have to put up with, what things should ever force you to break the ties of friendship with God? You can find nothing more delightful than God. God is not something that can ever offend you, if you don’t offend him; there is nothing more beautiful, and full of light than he is.” (Sermon 385)
- “There is no greater consolation than the unfeigned loyalty and mutual affection of good and true friends.” (City of God)
*For a short a 5-minute audio clip of Augustine on friendship by Dr. Steven Nichols, listen here.