Thursday, October 27, 2005

SJ - Friendship and Segregation

As C.S. Lewis discusses one of his childhood friends, Arthur, in Surprised by Joy, his quick observation on friendship points the reader back to biblical truths, and also helps show some of the folly in our largely “age segregated” culture. Although Lewis’s friendship

“began from an identity or taste on a particular point, [he and Arthur] were sufficiently different to help each other.” (pg. 122)
In The Four Loves, also by Lewis, he asserts that “friendship must be about something,” (p. 66) and his friendship with Arthur initially based itself on their love of Norse mythology. However, because Lewis sees friendship as a side-by-side journey, friendship cannot revolve around the thing that initially drew the friends together, but must “fight [together], read [together], [and] argue [together.]” (The Four Loves, pg. 71) In this way, the friends can help each other onward in life. Arthur helped show Lewis how to function in more chaotic home life, and taught him how to love the countryside.

The Bible spells out this principle of friends helping each other in two ways: through proverbs and with many examples. In Proverbs, Solomon spoke of how friends spur each other on, “as iron sharpens iron.” (Proverbs 27:17) Other Proverbs tell people to consult “a multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11: 14) because presumably these counselors will have differing life experiences and therefore differing knowledge to help the friend make decisions. One example of friends helping each other comes in 1 Samuel when David, a young shepherd boy, and Jonathan, the prince of the land, become close friends. Jonathan’s father begins to hate David, but because of Jonathan’s insights into his father’s character, he helps David wisely avoid the wrath of the king. History and literature hold many other examples of friendships helping both friends as they work towards a common goal.

In our society today, people have placed a growing emphasis on segregating groups by age. While this can help the participants, it can also cut them off from valuable friendships where someone “sufficiently different” could help them. For many years, schools operated with different grades in one room. Because of this, older children could help younger ones, and friendships could develop across age lines. Today, every school is divided strictly into grades, separating students from nearly everyone not the same age. Some might say “oh well, in other parts of life they can meet other people,” but this often does not occur. In many churches, they have begun separating children into age group classes for the entirety of church, not allowing them to worship with the “adults” at all. Some churches go so far as to segregate the small groups, so that single adults only meet with single adults, married couples only meet with married couples, youth only meet with youth. While this can benefit the participants because sometimes they can discuss topics which might not apply to the other groups, it can also create a wall around each group, giving each division little or no organized ways to fellowship, worship, or serve together with the others. Of course, anyone can work to befriend anyone else, but it becomes more difficult when the church offers them no opportunities. In this way, a youth can miss many of the “sufficiently different” singles or married couples who might offer great insight into their lives and help them, and vice versa. “Friendship (as the ancients saw) can be a school of virtue” (The Four Loves, page 73) but in our society we must work to cultivate friendships all types of people, not just those in our peer group.


At 6:55 PM, Blogger Karen Kovaka said...

Yes indeed! I was listening to a Jeff Myers talk today about the importance of mentoring today. He offered an incredible challenge - think in terms of four generations; think in terms of long term influence.

What we teach really becomes influential as it reaches other generations. Bridging the generational gap is critical to influential communication and leadership.

PS - I can think of few things more exciting than a CS Lewis discussion blog. I'm a fan.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Lindsey said...

You're very right! Good post. Keep it up!

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