“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. ” (John 15:13-14 ESV)
The Oxford dictionary defines a friend as “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection”; other dictionaries suggest that a friend “is a person who you know well and who you like a lot” and friendship as characterised by a “strong liking and trust”.
Jesus wants us to be His friends, as these verses show. Now the question we need to ask ourselves is this: do we wish to be Jesus’ friends? The disciples showed their devotion for Jesus by remaining with Him when others departed. These others left when they found that friendship with Jesus meant “drinking from His cup” and being “baptised with His baptism”; and neither of these offerings carried unmitigated sweetness and light.
Many of us will nod “Yes” when asked this question, but how many of us have been fair-weather friends. “Many seek the favour of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts” (Proverbs 19:6 ESV). In our early days as Christians filled with love and gratitude for Christ’s work on the cross, we might happily have sacrificed many things for Him. But, sadly in many cases, our relationship with Him soon deteriorates to a level where we seek Him mainly for worldly advantages.
God allows troubles into our lives to help us out of our pride and selfishness; and to wean us from spiritual childishness. With worldly crutches snatched away, we cling to Jesus and begin to walk upright as mature Christians. Our hearts are softened to yield to His will and made willing to serve others in love.
What does it mean to have Jesus as our Friend? He is a Friend who loves at all times (Proverbs 17:7), and sticks closer than a brother or sister (Proverbs 18:24). He is literally a brother who was ‘born for [our times of] adversity’. ‘The sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel’ (Proverbs 27:9 ESV) and ‘faithful are the wounds of a friend’ (Proverbs 27:6 ESV).
So, we have this unbreakable bond of love with Jesus; in difficulties when friends make themselves scarce, we have in Him a loyal Companion who stands by, ready to encourage, soothe and untangle our knots. We will find the easiest way out of nearly any muddle by simply taking His advice. Even the discipline He sometimes lays on us is evidence of His deep concern for us – it tends to be short-lived followed by long stretches of mercy.
We open our hearts to those we call our friends. Likewise, Jesus longs to reveal His thoughts to us. “No longer do I give you the name of servants; because a servant is without knowledge of what his master is doing:I give you the name of friends, because I have given you knowledge of all the things which my Father has said to me” (John 15:15 BBE). God was unwilling to hide from Abraham the judgement He would soon pour upon Sodom and Gomorrah; and He specially send His angels to rescue Abraham’s relatives from disaster. Jesus desires to open His heart to us; to teach us how to partner with Him in the fulfilment of His plans, and be part of His solutions for the suffering world.
What does Jesus expect from us? Does He have a command or condition for us? “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 ESV). Love is all He asks from us in return. We should be willing to give up our selfishness and serve one another in love. We should carry our neighbour’s burdens and wash their feet, for the sake of this eternal friendship. “You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:14 ESV). When we do this, the fellowship and communion between Christ and us flows unhindered, for “we walk in the light as He is in the light” (1John 1:7).
This Sunday, let us set aside time to renew our friendship with Jesus. Let us come to Him in humility, and be open about the selfishness, pride and greed in our lives. He has promised to hear our cry, forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. As we yield ourselves to Jesus, the sweetness of walking closely with Him will once again fill our lives.
Jesus, we thank You so much for being our Friend. What a great privilege it is to be called Your friend – and how little we deserve it. Help us to remain in You at all times. Cleanse our hearts of all self-love and selfish motives. Purify our souls, as we forgive those who sin against us. Help us draw close to You and to serve one another in love.