13“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17This I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:13-17 NASB)
This is the passage that came to my mind when I started thinking about friendship a few days ago. I started to write in my journal and then decided it was something I wanted to share publically. It seemed as if God was giving me something. As soon as I opened the document to begin writing I got distracted. The trouble I was having with the computer suddenly had to be fixed right then, so I pasted the above into the file and moved on to that. Now the inspiration is gone. So this is my excuse for whatever dearth of eloquence is forthcoming. I still want to talk about it, so here goes.
What does friendship really mean? I did not set out to contemplate this from a Biblical viewpoint, but it had to come to that. Any time I go looking for the meaning of things that matter I’m going to end up at the source of truth. If Jesus has something to say about friendship, I’m going to pay attention.
We throw the word friend around almost as loosely as we do the word love. We’ve reduced a concept of deep and precious meaning to a frivolous moniker for a social networking connection. I’ve got “friend” I don’t even know! Even so, we know the difference. Friend is a warm fuzzy word we like to use, but if we are asked I think most of us would not call very many people true friends. Though we use the word lightly, we know what it really should mean, and we all crave those relationships.
I would say that a friend is someone who loves you for who you are. Friendship may exist within the ties of blood, but is most often found outside of any condition that would presuppose some kind of love. It is born of affection unencumbered by expectation. We all want to be loved like that.
I think most of us go through life without seeing that. Maybe we just don’t meet the right people, or maybe we’re too shy, or maybe too shallow, or maybe fill in the blank. The problem may be a little closer to the heart. We don’t have friends like that because we don’t know how to be friends like that.
I go back to Jesus’ words. They are significant on several levels, and I hope I will not take them too far out of context as I draw some conclusions from them beyond the clear and ultimately significant connection between Jesus’ sacrifice and our response to it.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends”
Is there anyone you would die for? I might say there is, but can I know until I am put into a situation where I must make that choice? Hopefully none of us will have to face that, but Jesus did. This is why I say that true friendship involves self sacrificing love. The next statement doesn’t seem too friendly.
“You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
Did you ever have a childhood playmate say something like “I’ll be your friend if …?” Maybe you thought it was worth it and did what was asked of you. My guess is it didn’t end well. A friendship doesn’t do well when one dominates the other. So how does it work when Jesus says it? First of all, He’s God, so that changes things a bit. That He would call us friends at all is a measure of His love for us. Since He gave everything for us, it is not so unreasonable of Him to ask everything from us. Then he lets us in on His plan, illustrating another aspect of friendship. It is not slaves he wants, but friends who know what He is doing and want to do it with Him. Friends share their hopes and dreams with one another and help each other achieve them. Then look at what he commanded!
“This I command you, that you love one another.”
This is what He wants. This is what He did for us.
One other thing I want to point out from these few verses.
“You did not choose Me but I chose you…”
If we take Jesus as our example, the joy of making friends falls upon us. There is truth in the old cliché, “To have a friend you have to be a friend.” So this is my challenge to all those who don’t feel they have enough good friends. Go be one. It won’t be easy. I can’t say that I know how. I’m thankful to still have friends who are better at it than I am. A lasting friendship truly is a cooperative affair and not everyone you approach will cooperate, but it’s worth the effort. Practice love, and you just might find it coming back at you. One thing is for certain. Jesus is a friend who will never fail. Start by loving Him and He will show you what to do from there.