I am at the tail end of a short visit to Kuala Lumpur / Petaling Jaya, mostly for work and to attend the wedding dinner of our good friends’ son. In between, I am squeezing in as many meet ups with friends as I can. I haven’t been here for awhile. Meeting up with my friends this time reminded me of the mutuality of friendship.

I was pleasantly surprised when some of my old friends decided to share with me how I had impacted their lives. In truth, I couldn’t remember the details of what they had alluded to. One lawyer said I had taught her that there was no sacred-secular divide when it comes to vocation. She felt encouraged to serve God in law and has done very well. Another lawyer said that I had taught him the importance of rest. He too is doing significant things for the Lord in his practice and in his church. Another friend, a creative, said I had helped him start out in his work by giving him one of my spare laptops. I really can’t remember all these good things that my friends reported to me. It was a long time ago. But I was glad that they happened. What I remember is how they helped me at critical junctures in my life. Friendship is mutual.

This trip I also met a number of the children of my friends. I had great chats with these young folks and was delighted that they were growing up so well. I tried to listen to their hearts and to encourage them where I could. Perhaps this is another role for me in this chapter of life — being a spiritual grandfather to the children of my friends. It reminded me of how many of my friends have blessed my children through the years. Friendship is mutual.

Mutuality and reciprocity may be one thing that separates friendship from other types of relationships.

“True friendships are hallmarked by each member’s desire to engage with the other — it’s about mutual interest in one another’s experiences and thoughts, as well as a sense of ‘belongingness’ and connection,” she says. “Friendships require reciprocity — of admiration, respect, trust, and emotional and instrumental support.” (Dr.SuzanneDegges-White, What is Friendship?)

This understanding of friendship is very much in line with the New Testament’s “one another” commands.

The phrase “one another” is derived from the Greek word allelon which means “one another, each other; mutually, reciprocally”. It occurs 100 times in the New Testament. Approximately 59 of those occurrences are specific commands teaching us how (and how not) to relate to one another.

Obedience to these commands is imperative. It forms the basis for all true Christian community and has a direct impact on our witness to the world (John 13:35)         [Bev Sterk, The Case for “One Another”]

One does not enter into a friendship to help one’s friends so that you can receive help in return. We help our friends because we love them; not to gain points so that they will be obliged to help us in future. Because I love my friend it gives me great joy to be able to bless my friend in some way. And if I truly love my friend, I must also be humble enough to receive help from my friend in my time of need.

A lonely age can also be a selfish age. The struggles of life would soon make a lie of any attempt to live life without the help of others. The answer is not some over-dependence on others where we abdicate any responsibility for our own lives. We should all aim at some form of interdependence where we help each other in our life journeys. It would seem this is human life as it should be when we think of the partnership of Adam and Eve. A healthy friendship is a key way to live life as it should be lived.