I found Wesley Hill’s second chapter in his book “Spiritual Friendship” to be the most helpful. He titled the chapter “I Love You Because You’re Mine.” While he discusses this title in conceptual form throughout the chapter, I had to read through about half the chapter to come to where he mentions the context from which the title was drawn.
The Catholic writer and activist Maggie Gallagher describes two kinds of relationships. To the first she gives the tagline, “You’re mine because I love you.” . . . On the other hand, Gallagher talks about a different sort of relationship. To this one she gives a tagline that’s the inverse of her first: “I love you because you’re mine.” In this latter type of friendship, my love for you isn’t the basis of our connection. It’s the other way around: we are bound to each other, and therefore I love you. . . . What would it mean to see friendship—specifically Christian friendship, the kind we want to strengthen and nurture in our churches—as more of the second kind of relationship than the first? What would it mean if we made promises to each other, precisely as friends?
This concept has been swirling around in my head all week. (1) I’ve thought long and hard on what both Hill, and by extension Gallagher mean by these two “taglines.” (2) I’ve wondered which of my friends are in each of these categories. (3) Is it good or bad for a friend to be in either?
The first type of friendship, which would encompass the majority of friendships by my observation, would consist of friendships that were initiated by a mutual affection. Simply put, affection or commonality resulted in a relationship and friendship. The other type of relationship appears to have somehow been imposed on someone and as a result, affection and/or friendship was chosen and developed.
In the context of the church, we find people being placed within a relationship with others with very little choice on the part of either. Of course you do choose where you go to church, but you’re not necessarily directly choosing who you go to church with. By choosing to be part of a church, you are placed within a relationship and friendship with others. Hill would argue that the second type of friendship should come into play in this context. Because we are now friends, I will love you. Because we have been divinely placed into a relationship, I will love you.
Which type of friendship is better? Is one better than the other? Which type of friendship is richer or deeper or longer lasting?