So, if you weren’t with us this past Sunday, stop whatever you’re doing (even if you’re reading this!) and peep the latest podcast. Brit and Katie Quesada led us into a brilliantly nuanced conversation about friendship and maturity, using Deuteronomy 15.1-3 as a starting point. While the Deuteronomy passage itself discusses how the Israelites should handle debt, Brit and Katie read it through a metaphorical lens, focusing on the “debt” and forgiveness experienced in friendships. This isn’t a far stretch when you consider how the topics of money, debt, sin, and forgiveness overlapped when Jesus talked about them.
It’s interesting that God doesn’t immediately demand her people to always live in Jubilee; instead there’s a timeline for when it occurs, and there’s a sizable gap between each occurrence. God knew the Israelites weren’t mature enough yet to live in an economic system that valued people and relationships more than debts and wealth. They needed to live in accordance with the reality that Jubilee will come and wean themselves off of oppressive economic systems and become a Jubilee people more and more as each Jubilee went by. Similarly, Brit and Katie challenged us to handle our friendships with the inclusive love and radical forgiveness of God in mind, learning through therapy, spiritual direction, meditation, etc. how to make mature and honest choices in our friendships.
Depending on your stage of life, this conversation about friendship and Jubilee will hit you differently. For me, I spent less time thinking about specific friendships and more about my current lack of deep friendship. My wife and I moved to LA four years ago and have been on that LA grind since. There are people to meet, projects to finish, cards to handout, festivals to frequent, and the list goes on. I never realized how difficult sustaining a friendship out here can be, and I took for granted the strong friendships I established back on the east coast. But, tbh, it’s not like this realization makes the hustle any less difficult or professionally necessary. So, the question I find myself asking at the moment is, “why friends?”
As a community, we at New Abbey strive to always discern and embody the “third way.” A way of living that rejects easy answers and dualistic thinking. We follow Jesus’ example in looking for a more inclusive way, a more radical way, a more loving way. I think friendships are the perfect social space to dream up and flesh out the third way. For centuries, hegemonic empires and rigid family structures have always been wary of friendships. Bonds formed out of mutuality and free choice don’t bode well for fixed systems. They are a type of community full of imaginative and subversive potential. Friendships have eroded segregation from the inside out; friendships have created a new family for people rejected from their flesh and blood because of their sexuality; friendships have allowed minorities to feel like they’re Latinx enough, Korean enough, Black enough when their own circles questioned the legitimacy of identity. I see now why Jesus centered so much of his work and teaching around those he called friends. They provided the space, willingness, and support to embody something fresh, a new way.
Given their importance, friendships really do matter. To sustain them, we need to learn how to have the hard conversations about the debts we owe each other and the even harder conversations about how to forgive each other (or to live unburdened by those debts even when the friendship is over). Or maybe you’re like me and need to reflect on where you’re at with friendships in general. Regardless, we live in a world that could use a little more “Jubilee” and our friendships can be that starting point.