friendship

You’re Wearing a Cape. Really.

Girl dressed up like a superhero, Sunny studio / Shutterstock.com
Girl dressed up like a superhero, Sunny studio / Shutterstock.com

Do you have a favorite superhero? I’ve always liked Batman. As a boy, I read all the Batman comic books. I like the cape and the cowl, the bat logo, the cool car with the flames coming out the back, the interesting villains.

What I like especially is that Batman is a regular person. Other superheroes fly or run at supersonic speeds or stretch their body parts in ways that are very strange and make you wonder. Batman has none of those powers. He’s like us — well, regular except for the part about being ultra-rich and living in a mansion above a bat cave …

The bottom line is that Batman fights for a better world using the things available to all of us: Creativity. Commitment. Courage. A passion to make a difference someone else’s life.

He reminds me of the super hero in each of us.

Friendship as Justice

My friends and I have shared time over coffee and spilled all the deep, dark secrets. wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Overheard on a Facebook conversation last week: “There is really not much difference between compassion and pity when it comes to being on the receiving end of it.” This thought gave me pause as I consider compassion to be a central tenet of biblical justice, and yet, I experience this to be true. We use the fancy spiritual term of “compassion” when the gist of the sentiment is, indeed, pity. 

The above conversation rose out of a discussion on the viral story of Pope Francis kissing the disfigured man. The media reporting the story highlights the compassion of the Pope, how his actions are pushing outside the box of the papacy, and how revolutionary his love was. Other than a brief medical description of the disfigured man’s disease, there is no additional information on who he is, where he lives, or whether he has a family. We are not even given his name. The buzz generated by this story arises out of an awed respect for someone who could even consider touching such a pitiful, nameless person. I can’t help but wonder how this man feels to have the world captivated by somebody showing love to himself. It seems to me his deformity has been made into a public spectacle.

Have You Tried the Six Varieties of Love?

Today’s coffee culture has an incredibly sophisticated vocabulary. Do you want a cappuccino, an espresso, a skinny latte or maybe an iced caramel macchiato? The ancient Greeks were just as sophisticated in the way they talked about love, recognizing six different varieties. They would have been shocked by our crudeness in using a single word both to whisper “l love you” over a candlelit meal and to casually sign an email “lots of love.”

So what were the six loves known to the Greeks? And how can they inspire us to move beyond our current addiction to romantic love, which has 94 percent of young people hoping — but often failing — to find a unique soul mate who can satisfy all their loving needs?

Colors of Cuba

Reds, yellows, and blues in Havana, Cuba. Photo courtesy Kamira/shutterstock.com

I just returned from a weeklong visit to Cuba. A team of seven people from First Baptist Church Greenville went to be with and learn from our partner church in Guanahay, Cuba — La Iglesia Bautista del Camino. After time in such a colorful country, here are some colorful thoughts of my own for three of our Cuban friends.

If Javier were a color, he would be blue. He is kind. "It is important to look each other in the eyes," he said on Easter morning. "So look into each others’ eyes, really, now, look into each others’ eyes, for at the end of the day you will be able to say that you have looked into the eyes of Christ."

 

Friends Without Borders

IT'S BEEN SAID that one of the most radical things Jesus did was to eat with the wrong crowd. Undoubtedly, folks on the Left were frustrated with Jesus for making friends with Roman tax collectors. And folks on the Right were surely ticked at him for hanging out with Zealots. Dinner must have been awkward with both of them at the table; after all, Zealots killed tax collectors for fun on weekends.

But Jesus was a subversive friend, a scandalous bridge-builder, a holy trespasser. Just as we are known by the company we keep, so was Christ—accused of being a "glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Luke 7:34). He was put on trial for being a rabble-rouser and a traitor. He got in trouble with the religious elite for crossing the line, overstepping purity laws and cultural norms, and disrupting the status quo. His love had no bounds and his friendships defied categories. He insisted on calling his followers friends: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends" (John 15:15).

Jesus made friends—with folks who adored him and folks who hated him. He sat with the woman at the well, washed the feet of his disciples, wept at the death of his buddy Lazarus, and loved his mom and dad. But his love went beyond borders. He redefined family, inviting his followers to be "born again" and discover an identity that runs deeper than biology. He challenged the chosen and included the excluded—in the family of God.

I wonder who Jesus would be hanging out with if he were around today?

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Don't Give Up on Global Friendship

Afghans who worked with Ambassador Dubs gather around a makeshift memorial at the U.S. embassy in Kabul. / Family Photo

WHEN AMBASSADOR Chris Stevens was killed in Benghazi, Libya, in September, it was jarring for me to hear NPR refer to the last U.S. ambassador to be slain: my father, Adolph Dubs. He was kidnapped in 1979 in Kabul, Afghanistan, by Afghan extremists whose motives were never learned, and killed hours later in a botched armed response by the Soviet-allied Afghan government, even as U.S. diplomats pleaded for more time to negotiate.

My dad was 58, a career diplomat. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he had entered the foreign service, compelled by a deep desire to learn to use diplomacy to blunt the forces of fear and hate at the root of violent conflict. As a young man, he had considered the Lutheran ministry; he saw his work as a diplomat as a pragmatic way to build relationships, even with those whose histories and beliefs seemed alien to our own. People sensed this about him. Whether meeting with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, with Serbian farmers in the former Yugoslavia, or, finally, with Afghans in the uncertain and perilous months before the Soviet invasion, he was universally respected for his integrity and commitment, and even loved for his genuine humanity and humor.

Among the many expressions of sympathy I received following his death, one photo is particularly meaningful. It's not the one depicting U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and other dignitaries receiving my father's casket at Andrews Air Force Base—rather, it's an image (above) taken in the courtyard of the embassy in Kabul. It shows the Afghan men who knew him, who had lived and worked around him during his time there. They are grouped around a memorial they had made, with his picture propped on it. These are the people who considered him a friend, understood what he was about in their country, and felt his loss, deeply and personally.

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Love, Friendship, and Solidarity

A posthumous book of Christopher Hitchens’ essays was published this week with the title Mortality. Seven chapters are previously published essays, and the eighth is a series of notes he wrote in his last days in the hospital. In a review, Christopher Buckley writes that Hitchens’

“… greatest gift of all may have been the gift of friendship. At his memorial service in New York City, 31 people, virtually all of them boldface names, rose to speak in his memory. One selection was from the introduction Christopher wrote for the paperback reissue of “Hitch-22” while gravely ill:”

‘Another element of my memoir — the stupendous importance of love, friendship and solidarity — has been made immensely more vivid to me by recent experience. I can’t hope to convey the full effect of the embraces and avowals, but I can perhaps offer a crumb of counsel. If there is anybody known to you who might benefit from a letter or a visit, do not on any account postpone the writing or the making of it. The difference made will almost certainly be more than you have calculated.’”

When You're Afraid to Be Who You Are

I am a bubbly extrovert who struggles with an enormous amount of anxiety when meeting new people.  

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?

This weekend, I ventured down to Chicago to meet a group of women I’ve been in relationship with via Internet for more than a year. Let’s just break that down for a minute:

  1. a group of women
  2. a group of women I’m meeting for the first time… alone
  3. a group of women who have a preconceived notion of who I am based on good pictures and thought-out witty comments I post online.

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