Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Four Cups of Friendship

The Passover seder includes drinking four cups of wine that represent the four promises in Exodus 6:6-7:
  1. Separation out of slavery
  2. Deliverance from oppression
  3. Redemption into God's intended identity
  4. Reliable and faithful continued relationship

The order is important. People can still feel oppressed and exhibit the habits of slavery even after they are no longer enslaved. Only after both slavery and oppression are ended can someone develop the identity God wants them to have.

The holiday of Tu B'Shvat happened last weekend. For this day Jewish mystics of the sixteenth century created another annual seder meal that also had four cups of wine. However, because of the theme of Tu B'Shvat the meaning of the four cups was shifted from God's caring for Israel to farmers caring for trees.
  1. Separation out of slavery became Winter protecting and planting: even when no potential is visible the farmer still prepares the trees
  2. Deliverance from oppression became Spring buds and flowers: the trees are rejoicing
  3. Redemption into God's intended identity became Summer fruitfulness: the trees are giving fruit and shade as God planned for them
  4. Reliable and faithful continued relationship became Fall pruning and care: the trees are not abandoned after being fruitful but are still valued by the farmer

Again the order of the four steps is important.

Friendship also follows these four steps. We cannot have a rich and healthy friendship with someone who is enslaved by addiction, abuse, etc. That person must escape from the slavery and shed the oppression before they can develop into who they are meant to be, at which point they can finally be a good friend.

It's easy to say to someone, "I'll be there for you." Perhaps we say this too often. The first three steps really require God's assistance. A habit of jumping prematurely to step four only creates a plethora of troubled and usually superficial friendships.

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