This is a topic that I have been intending on writing about for some time now. Partly because I want to honour some of the dear friends who have been close to me over the years, and partly because I think it is a concept that is much maligned and misunderstood in our current culture. In 1 Samuel 18, we are told that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul […] then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul”. This love for another man is something that our current society finds very difficult to comprehend. In our hypersexualized world, a deep and lasting love is too often immediately associated with some form of sexual relationship. Yet, throughout history there have been many documented cases of men loving other men as the closest of friends. Letters have been found between different men speaking of this love. Unfortunately, because of our own place in history, we all find it difficult to comprehend these relationships for what they are. Quite often, the assumption is made that members of these historic relationships were homosexual, and engaged in secret sexual intercourse. Part of this has, I think, come from the need for the homosexual community to find ammunition for their own campaign in gaining sexual freedom. However, the problem is much deeper than that, and should not be placed at the feet of the homosexual community. The real issue, in fact-is the opposite. In recent history, one of the most cutting insults that you could throw at a man was that he was gay. This was most prominently seen in the halls of the local highschool, where such insults were bandied about more often than compliments. To avoid what was a tarnishing label on a reputation, young men would avoid any form of close connection with another man. Unfortunately, this has significantly deteriorated the potential for deep and intimate relationships among men (I am speaking about male relationships over female only because that is what I am familiar with).
In my own experience, I have been blessed with a number of close connections with other guys. During my highschool years, I had a couple friends who I was completely connected with. I can recall sitting on a couch in the library together (the three of us), closely pressed together because of the smallness of the couch. We were not uncomfortable with this, and in fact enjoyed the feeling of close proximity. We would even rest our heads on each-other at times, and nod off. This enjoyment was not sexual, but instead was an almost spiritual connection that was enhanced through physical contact, such as hugging or sitting closely together. Similarly, I have a dear friend whom I connected with during University, whom has become my most intimate friend. None of these connections are able to reach the level of intimacy that I share with my wife, of course, but I truly loved and love those men whom I have crossed paths with. These friendships have enhanced my own feeling of confidence and security, and have helped me to grow in many different ways. Such friends are also the ones who are able to confront me when I am straying from the path I should be walking. They are my life couches, and have always played an important part in my life.
Because of the important part my own friends have played in my life, it grieves me that many do not have similar experiences due to a fear of stigma or judgement. I believe that close and intimate friends have the potential to enhance our lives and our beings in ways that cannot be replaced with any alternatives. Not all of these types of relationships must include physical contact at all, and they can come in different ways. But I think that such relationships are important and should be encouraged within our society. In some ways, they can be the most pure types of friendship, as they do not involve sexuality whatsoever. So, to end-I want to challenge you to think twice before throwing around labels. Apparently there are parts of Europe where it is common to see men walk hand-in-hand. We have a lot to learn.