There are no greater miracles known to earth than perfection and an unbroken friendship.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Retrospection and Introspection, page 80)
From the April 3, 1909 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel
Photo – Rembrandt – David’s Farewell with Jonathan – Courtesy of allposters.com
Probably the most conspicuous friendship of all history is that of David and Jonathan. David, it will be remembered, had just returned from his victory over Goliath, and when he was brought before King Saul, Jonathan’s father, Jonathan saw him for the first time. In describing the foundation of their friendship, the prophet Samuel says that when David told the king of his humble birth, and “had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” How that friendship was tested; how Jonathan had to meet his father’s anger because he persisted in associating with David; how his friendship was unabated even after his father had declared that he could not ascent the throne while David lived; how at dinner he risked his life and barely escaped his own father’s javelin because he championed the cause of his friend, and how David commemorates their friendship in that exquisite lament for Saul and Jonathan after their fall in the battle of Gilboa,—the story always has glowed and always will glow, because its vital essence is selfless love.
Every story, whether it be true as that of David and Jonathan, whether it be traditionary as that of Damon and Pythias, or whether it be fiction as that of Hamlet and Horatio,—every story of friendship that has ever been written, and every one that ever will be written, and every one that has ever been or ever will be imagined, may be cpitomized in those two words, selfless love. Wherever selfless love is absent, therefore, there can be no friendship in the highest sense of the word. To be sure, people may associate amicably on many other bases without revealing to the world at large or perhaps ever suspecting themselves that such association lack the vital spark of supreme friendship. They may “put up with” one another’s faults and foibles and follies for the sake of peace, and yet not feel the slightest glow of friendship. They may even go the length of making sacrifices for one another; but unless those sacrifices are placed upon the pyre of self they descrate the shrine of friendship. To count or to calculate one’s own sacrifices is to augment one’s own selfishness. Self-seeking kills friendship. Whatever the ulterior motive be, if it involve any thought of getting, soon or late, instead of giving freely, abundantly, lavishly now, it betrays, crucifies, and would destroy friendship. This always finds its proof in a test.
Who “to the manner born,” or who having risen to position in any department of endeavor, has not had flocks of “friends;” but who, having experienced a reverse, cannot recount rude awakenings and bitter losses of such friends? Who that has taken a turn in a wrong direction has not been forsaken while he was “having his experience”? Who, having listened to what he believed to be a higher message of Truth, has not been attacked with vituperation or dogmatic statements, neither of which fit the case but which tend to strengthen him in his sense of right, only to find that his “friends” have fallen away and left him, as they say, “darkened”? And who, discovering his error, and returning to the straight and narrow path, has not been met by the cold disdain or the bland reproach of self-righteousness? Only those who have passed through such ordeals can know how much they have lost and—gained. They, and they only, have proved that the fire can destroy nothing but the dross. They, and they only, can rejoice to know that in spite of their misfortunes, their wanderings, their mistakes, through good report and through evil report they have been able—if such has been their good fortune—”to keep a few friends, but these without capitulation.”
Of all people who have special cause to rejoice in a potential, dynamic knowledge of what friendship really is, Christian Scientists should rank first. Like all professing Christians, they are beneficiaries of the abounding selfless love of Jesus of Nazareth. So much of what the world enjoys today is due directly or indirectly to his mission that any enumeration is superfluous. But Christian Scientists are under an added obligation to Mrs. Eddy, whose selfless love has presented in our fortunate day the only explanation of the Master’s words and works that has enabled mankind to present the signs which Jesus declared evidence an understanding of God. And now that we have only to apply ourselves to gain this understanding, may we not rejoice that we can so easily establish, each for himself, the true bond of friendship that “suffereth long, and is kind,” the bond whose establishment proves that Emerson was right when he said that “the only way to have a friend is to be one.” Higher than this we fiend the words of the Master, concerning Lazarus, who had been carried to the tomb. Jesus said to his anxious disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that may awake him out of sleep.” And he did! Such proofs of friendship as the Master gave we should seek to give—we who have learned in Christian Science the infinite power of divine Love.