Who do you call a friend? What does it mean for you to be a friend? We think of God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit as totally other and beyond our understanding and yet in John 15:13-14 Jesus says: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” What did Jesus command? Just before these statements Jesus said that we are to love one another as he has loved us (John 15:12) But in other times Jesus said we are to ‘deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him’ (Matthew 16:24). I wonder if we understand Jesus’s style of friendship.
Jesus called people friends, like his disciples and particularly Judas who, when he came to kiss Jesus to identify him to the guards, Jesus called him ‘friend’ as he told him to quickly do what he had to do (Matt. 28:49). Many of us might not have called Judas our friend as he turned us over to guards to ultimately be crucified.
Friendship for most of us is usually based on trust and mutual understanding; a person we enjoy and like to spend time with. Jesus called his disciples friends even though they often were a challenging group who didn’t understand him and many turned away when he needed them most.
This past week we made some new friends through Staycation Bible School. Many of these new friends found us on our Facebook event page. We hope we became a friend to them throughout the week through our Zoom meetings.
I wonder how we are doing at growing our circle of friends, not only with other people but with our greatest Friend and Savior, Jesus.
Here are a few ways I hear the Spirit reminding us we can grow our friendship with Jesus:
1. Realize we are loved by Jesus and let ourselves rest in his love. The truth is we can’t love another until we love ourselves. Jesus said the greatest commandments were: Love the Lord your God first and foremost with all of yourself and love your neighbor as yourself. Loving ourselves means receiving the love and forgiveness of Jesus. But,maybe that has to be in reverse order – to realize we are forgiven first- then we can accept his unconditional love and grace
2. To be friends with Jesus we must spend time with Jesus. Makes sense but it is so easy to put him aside. He isn’t physically standing there waiting for us – and we can be so distractible! I read once in a Bible study I was doing that a good way to visit with Jesus each day is to place a chair in front of yourself as if Jesus was there waiting for you and speaking with you. It may be a concrete way of keeping ourselves accountable. It might help to even set aside time on our calendar to remind ourselves and keep our promise to spend time with Jesus.
3. To be friends with Jesus we must learn how to love and be-friend others-even our enemies! The love Jesus pours into us through the Holy Spirit, isn’t just for us. We are loved so well, so completely, that we can step out of our comfort zone (deny ourselves) to love others. Even people we don’t like! This love, powered by the Love of God in Jesus is so strong that death can’t kill it. Jesus promised he and this love will never leave us nor forsake us.
4. Be on the look-out for someone who needs a friend. Jesus was good at spotting people who needed him to notice them (I think of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10). I challenge all of us to ask our Lord and Friend Jesus, to show us who we can love for his sake this week.
Let’s pray: Loving God, our Father, we are amazed that Jesus calls us his friends when we do what he commands, loving one another as he loves us. Thank you for your great love to us in Jesus that never ends and that nothing in all creation can stop. We want to love others with this same powerful love so they come to know our Friend and Savior Jesus too. Thank you Jesus for sending your Spirit to fill us with God’s love. We pray this prayer in and through your loving Name.