Friendship: The New Idolatry

FriendshipMark Rutland, twice a college president, said that friendship was today’s American idol. We are familiar with the television show, but Mark is describing something else. What?

Dictionary.com describes an idol as “any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion”. It would be a mistake to gloss over the word blind. The words that follow it are positive, but like most things in life can be misused especially when taken to an extreme. Let me illustrate. Eating is a good thing. Blind eating is not. To consume food without regard to the amount of salt, fat, and sugar it contains risks high blood pressure, heart attacks, and diabetes. Each of these diseases, if left untreated, can lead to death or, at the very least, a severe handicap to living and enjoying life.

Friendship is as vital as food. People were made for relationships; deep bonds. A report of the most effective torture methods of interrogators lists solitary confinement as one of the best. People who seem impossible to break begin to babble after a few days in the dark by themselves.

A different perspective observes that “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” Such moments are best when shared with others. So are times of pain.

Blind friendship, however, as is the case with the blind consumption of food, often leads to pain. The person who did not commandeer his inebriated friends car keys because he was loath to risk his wrath, is wrapped in grief after the fatal car wreck that claimed the life of the one he considered his best friend.

As a former Christian college president, Rutland describes friendship as idolatry when people treat friends as more important than God. Mark believes there is nothing or no one that is more important than our relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Sadly, friendship, he says, is more important than Jesus Christ to a majority of Americans. They ignore God’s direction and commands rather than risk hurting or offending a friend, even when they are being self-destructive. A friend may be lying, having sex outside marriage, or be a substance abuser. How many friends tell him or her what they are doing is wrong and will bring pain to their life over time?

When not hurting a friend is more important than obeying God, it is idolatry. There is no human friend that can bless as deeply as God can or linger into eternity without Jesus Christ being the first priority and friend.

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