Love and Risk

If you think about friendship, there is no end of things that have been said. It would be easy to write a listicle of 7 attributes of a good friend, or 5 things you can do to be a friend. Sometimes though it’s easier just to boil things down to their essential elements. If I were going to boil it down, friendship is about two essential elements: love and risk.

Every friendship at some level is about love. It’s about care for another for that other person’s good. That is a high standard by which to define love, but it rings true. Why? Because how do you want to be loved by others? You desire them to care for your good. While you don’t always want another person to care for your good with zero regard for themselves, no one wants to be used by another person. I don’t want another person to take good from me with zero regard for my health and well-being, do you?

Consider, for example, the simple act of holding a door open for a stranger. It is an act of love. It is a a service for the good of another. That’s what Louis Armstrong meant when he sang the following lines in the tune “What a Wonderful World”: 

I see friends shakin’ hands sayin’ “How do you do?”

They’re really sayin’ “I love you.”

This is a simple act of love, one essential element of friendship.

But there is another element in friendship that propels it forward. That element is risk.

You hold the door for someone, a perfect stranger, and after doing so they may say thank you, but then you both go on your way. Or perhaps one of you takes a risk and says, “Tell me your name, will you?” It’s a small risk to give another person your name, or to invite conversation. You risk the other person not reciprocating, walking along without answering you. Or you risk the other person opening up too much telling you their name, their life story, and everything they are thinking in the moment.

The elements of love and risk we most easily associate with friendship that becomes romantic love. Friendship grows between two people as they meet, share more and more of their lives, fall in love, and eventually marry. However, the elements of love and risk exist between platonic friends as well. 

There are two images that I think about when I consider the interplay of love and risk.

First, there is the image of an elevator that is on a ground floor and goes down into the basement levels of a building. This is how I imagine access to my heart and the depth of who I am. To risk friendship is to invite someone to go one floor down with me into my heart. That can happen through something simple like a good conversation or fun shared experience.

The second image is one I learned from a mentor of mine. He called it the “line of relationship.” If you draw a line down the center of a piece of paper and imagine that you are on one side and a potential friend is on the other side. Friendship happens when you both step up to the line together. If only one of you will come up to the line then it is not mutual. If one of you crosses the line it is an attack. You have to meet each other at the line together.

I’ve been considering these two elements of friendship a lot lately as they pertain to public faith. I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to have “an agenda” for people, meaning they don’t want to share the gospel with people like a sales pitch one would hear from a stranger. This is good because a gospel “sales pitch” rarely moves someone in a real way. However, caring about someone enough to share with them the hope that you have in your heart, soul, and mind that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, should be a natural part of caring for any other person. 

If our relationship to Jesus Christ has permeated our hearts, then it should be appropriate to risk sharing with another person when they step on to the elevator of friendship with you. What is it like to talk about Jesus with your friend on the ground floor? What is it like to talk about your faith one level down? What is like to share who he is as you go deeper and deeper, floor by floor in a friendship?

It’s a risk. It’s a risk for another person’s good. Do you love another person enough to invite them to the line of relationship regarding the ultimate things of life? Do you love them enough to listen and ride the elevator of their heart down a few floors to find out what their ultimate hope in life is?

Love and risk are two things I encourage you to consider. Friendship is that place where love and risk meet at the line of relationship. Love and risk move us to get on the elevator and ride for the good of another person. 

Jesus risked everything to love you. Will you step on the elevator with him? Will you allow him to ride the elevator with you to the depths of your heart as well? The Proverbs 18:24 says that a man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus is that friend. 

How is Jesus calling you to love and risk for a friend?