St Clement of Alexandria: Are You A Friend Who Does Good to Others?

Feast of St Anthony the Great

Clement_of_Alexandria_Square_3.jpegWE HAVE been taught that there are three forms of friendship. The first and best of these is based on virtue, since the love which proceeds from reason is firmly based. The second stands between the others and is based on mutuality. It involves mutual sharing and is beneficial to life. Friendship on the basis of free giving is mutual. The third, and last, comes, as we put it, from habit. Some say that it chops and changes, being based on pleasure.

I think that it was a splendid statement of Hippodamus the Pythagorean: “Friendships are of three kinds, one group arising from knowledge of the gods, one from the service of human beings, and one from animal pleasures.” These are respectively the friendship enjoyed by philosophers, ordinary human beings, and animals. The real image of God is a human being who does good to others, and in so doing receives benefit, rather as a pilot in keeping others safe keeps himself safe at the same time. That is why when a person makes a request which is met, he does not say to the granter, “Thank you for giving,” but, “Thank you for accepting.” In this way, to give is to accept, to accept is to give. “The righteous show mercy and pity.” “The upright will inherit the land; the innocent will be left within it; wrongdoers will be eradicated from it” (Prov. 21:26; 2:21-22). I think that Homer was foreshadowing the man of faith when he said, “Give to a friend” (Odyssey 17.415). You should share with a friend so that he may remain still more a friend; you should help an enemy so that he may not remain an enemy. Goodwill is bound into helpfulness; hostility is abolished by helpfulness. But “if a positive attitude is there, its acceptability is related to what a person has, not what he lacks. It is not a matter of others being eased at the cost of a burden to you, but of equal sharing at this present moment,” and so on. He has spread his resources, he has given to the poor, his righteousness lasts forever, says Scripture (2 Cor. 9.9; Ps. 112. 9). For the words “after the image and likeness,” as we have said before, are not directed to physical matters – it is not right to compare mortal and immortal – but to intellect and reason, whereby the Lord can stamp his seal appropriately on the likeness related to His beneficence and His authority. Leadership is kept on the right path not by physical qualities but by intellectual discrimination.

Cities are well-governed by the counsels of men;
So is the home. ~Euripides, Antiope

Provided that men are saints.

~Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 2.19


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