Pseudo-Friends

3 04 2012

I was reading Luke 23 today, and while this is certainly not central to the story by any means, verse 12 caught my eye:

And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

I know. It is a strange little verse, but it got me thinking.

Friendship is a pretty happy word. When I say someone is my friend, there are some givens: there is a story of how we met, it is assumed we like each other, and (among other things) we must have something in common. People will often define friendship as one of the things that makes their life rich and fulfilling and I have certainly found that it is; I love my assortment of friends; each one brings something different into my life (and hopefully I contribute to theirs as well). When I look at who I would call friends, it is kind of a hodge-podge of people and I like it that way.

So here we have Herod and Pilate. What brought them together? Here is the story: A corrupt crowd brings forward an innocent man (Jesus) before Pilate; they proceed to badger him and then Herod (whom Pilate refers the case to) into pronouncing a death sentence upon Him. It’s complicated. In any case, it is this dispute that brings the two together. The clincher, the thing that seems to have cemented their friendship was something Herod did. Maybe he was bored, but after trying to squeeze information out of Jesus, he proceeds to try to humiliate Him by dressing Him up foolishly and sending him back to Pilate. Pilate is amused. Perhaps it made him laugh.  It seems this is all it took to spark a friendship between Herod and Pilate.

The whole thing is pretty warped and that is what made me think. Sometimes friendships have “bad” starts, not good starts. Sometimes people rally around things that are evil, and that is what they have in common. Friendships start over another friendship breaking up; people can like one another simply because they both don’t like someone else. Sometimes people find unity around unrighteous causes or destructive habits and because “misery loves company” they become pseudo-friends.

Pilate and Herod became “friends” one day finding each other with their own broken moral compasses. They had some values in common: Power trumped compassion; personal gratification trumped responsibility;  crowed approval trumped conscience; it was a match made in…well, you know. I wonder, what if Pilate had spent more time with his wife who was warning him to not have anything to do with the case against Jesus, rather than Herod who made light of it all? Who was the better friend in this case?

Friendship is tricky. Everyone wants a certain amount of company, yet bad company corrupts whatever good character one might possess. So is it worth it to take whatever we can get? We want friends, so we call people who are hanging out with or hanging on to us “friends” when they are probably anything but that. People who aren’t looking out for us, who aren’t challenging us appropriately, who aren’t loyal, kind, honest, faithful aren’t really friends are they?

“Friend” is a bit of a loose word, I guess; a dog has been called “man’s best friend” which doesn’t say a  whole lot about man, or friendship for that matter.

— Teresa Klassen

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