In the gospel, there is a part where Christ tells us, practically defining for us, what is to be a lover and a friend. This is a crucial point to note, since sad to say, nowadays many people often say they are just lovers but not friends, or vice-versa, that they are just friends but not lovers.
Christ described and defined both when he said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn 15,13-14) And reiterating how a friend should be, he said, “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (Jn 15,15)
It’s important that we get as much as possible the practical implications of these description and definition of a lover and a friend, because we are meant to be both. To be a real lover, we need to be ready to give everything of ourselves to our loved ones, God first and then the others, including giving our very life. Love is self-giving, and its perfection is when it is total self-giving.
You can imagine what this quest to be a real lover would involve! Definitely a lot of sacrifice, of self-denial, of gratuitous and magnanimous self-giving immediately come to mind. These, of course, will take a life-long process, but we should do it as early as possible and as steadily as possible also. The ideal is when we get truly ready to give our life for God and for everybody else.
And to be a true friend is to share what one has with others. And the peak of friendship is when we share the supreme good with others, and this is none other than God himself, when we help everyone to do his will and to be faithful to his commandments.
To be a real friend, we need to base our friendships on God’s goodness and orient it to God’s glory. The sharing involved in friendship should have God as the origin, center and goal. Otherwise, it would be dangerous friendship, one that often would not lead to real love.
In other words, if God is the basis and reason for our friendship and love, then we can always be both friends and lovers with everybody else. It’s when God is not the principle and goal of our love and friendship that to be both friends and lovers with everybody can hardly, if not impossible to be achieved.
We have to realize that if our love is true, that is, it is a love that is a vital participation of God’s love for all his creation, especially for man, then it is open to anything. That love remains steadfast and continues to grow and to be creative irrespective of how it is received by the object of such love.
It can be received well or not, it can be reciprocated generously or be betrayed. Regardless of the fate it falls into, that love will remain faithful. Thus, St. Paul once said: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Tim 2,13)
And if we have the proper understanding of what true friendship is, then we should be friendly always with everyone. Irrespective of how they are—and this can include those who in our human standards we consider to be unlikable, or who have done us wrong, or who are even hostile to us—we should just try our best to be friendly with them.*