It seems to me that we need strong language to account for friendship’s fragile yet sacred value. Friendship is the sort of love that, on the very terms of its vulnerability, invites us to sacrifice our future selves for the sake of something far better than personal autonomy—or even a static sense of self. The ancients and medievals tell us it is impossible for human beings to enjoy the good life without friendship. And we might add, there is no good life worth having that is free from friendship’s costly sacrifices. Such risks require protection, intentionality, and—I suspect—forms of public accountability that may at first appear oddly foreign to us.
If we want to recover a richer, more durable conception of friendship, we have to take its vicissitudes seriously. We need to become practiced at distinguishing genuine friendship from its semblances. And perhaps the very sort of moral and theological therapy required for the present moment lies in the forgotten language of covenant. Modern ills sometimes require premodern remedies.