So last week I spent time roaming the frozen campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne IN for their symposium. While I missed the sunshine of Southern California and the warmth of my wife’s embrace I had still managed to have a great time. Now it is tempting to say that I had a good time because of the incredible theological conversation and challenging papers that were given, that the topics were engaging and enlightening and so I was caught up in the academic ethos and forgot the bitter cold. However, the truth is I had a great time because I had friends.

I don’t have many friends, but the friends I do have can make any adventure or misadventure a great time. A glass of scotch or a cold beer while great in an of itself, is just better when it is shared with a friend. A difficult day or frustrating week is easier to endure if you know that you will be joining with a friend at the end. Today we toss around the word “friend” with a sort of carelessness that I don’t think is very responsible. We even classify friends; true friends, good friends, Facebook friends, work friends, best friends, etc. But I believe a friend is a rare and highly treasured commodity in this life.

I was fascinated to read recently Cicero’s treatise “De Amicitia” in which he treats the reader to a systematic examination of friendship. I mean who does that anymore, who sits down to contemplate and assess not only the value of friendship but address both it’s limits and lifelong bonds? Here is an example of his examination:

Great and numerous as are the blessings of friendship, this certainly is the sovereign one, that it gives us bright hopes for the future and forbids weakness and despair. In the face of a true friend a man sees as it were a second self. So that where his friend is he is; if his friend be rich, he is not poor; though he be weak, his friend’s strength is his; and in his friend’s life he enjoys a second life after his own is finished.

That actually gives a little more meat to that old hymn “What a Friend we Have In Jesus” doesn’t it? I have been guilty of allowing friends to drift from my life and for that I’m ashamed. I find great comfort though in the fact that not only have I made new friends over the years but some of those old friends have come back into my life and for that I joyfully give thanks to God.

Play the role of Cicero for a while and ask yourself, how is it that you define friendship and how crucial is a friend to the living of your life?