John 5:53-58; 10:10; 15:12-17
1 Corinthians 13
By: Joseph A. Nagy, Jr.
CopyFree (F) January 2011
Christ's definition of friend: Unrelenting love for one another (John 15:12-17).
We can never hope to totally live up to that or emulate His level of friendship. The best most of us can hope for is someone we can trust and share some good conversation with, perhaps even someone we can trust with secrets and our ideas on what we believe about conducting more intimate relationships (not necessarily with each other, mind you). The worst some of us wind up with are two wildly different definitions (Christ's and our own) and therein lies a world of hurt.
Underlying all of that, though, is Christ's definition which is most poignantly defined in the above mentioned verse. First, we start out with unrelenting love.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)
None of us are even capable of loving anyone near that much. We just don't have the capacity, even if we had the will. Our bodies, our minds, cannot even begin to comprehend the love that God and Christ have for us (John 3:16). Even Paul can only write about a smidgen of what is love (1 Corinthians 13) and its importance. How can we, who are imperfect, begin to understand the perfect love of Christ and God, much less reflect that in our own lives? We are given direction with God's full knowledge that we will be imperfect in our attempts at being obedient. We fall, we stumble, prayerfully we look up and ask God for help and go at it again.
If the first part of Christ's definition is unrelenting love and that's near impossible, how much harder is the next part of the definition: being self-sacrificial even unto death.
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
Christ, again, not only spoke it, but He lived it when He was unjustly tried, scourged, and crucified for our sins and to what end? That we may have life through Him (John 6:53-58) and not just for a little while, but abundantly (John 10:10). Christ sacrificed Himself for us, so that we may live, because He LOVES us. Does an enemy willingly die for his foe that the foe may live? Do even the ants not willingly give their lives so that their queen might live? How much greater is the love from the one who created us for Him to come to earth, live as a man in a man's body and die a sinners death so that our debt may be paid in full - a debt we could not ever repay. Are you willing to lay down your life for those you call friend?
It's really starting to get hard to call someone a friend now, isn't it? Unrelenting, sacrificial love. How can you love someone so much to do those two things as Christ has done them for us? It doesn't get any easier, though, so don't take off your boots.
"You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." (John 15:14)
Friendship is dutiful. You do for your friends and do not expect anything in return. Does your friend need help? As a Christian, if you truly consider someone a friend, you will be burdened to help them as you can and are led. You do it not expecting even so much as a "Thank you." You do it because it's exactly what Christ did for us. Again, we have Christ as are example and the provider of our definition. Christ loved God so much that even though He would have gladly given up the job, He did his Father's will (Mark 14:36). When have you suppressed your own desires to do something for a friend, no matter how much it would have inconvenienced you?
Unrelenting, self-sacrificial, dutiful love. I told you it was getting hard yet Christ continues to build upon this definition of what it means to be a friend.
"No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)
Friends are equals. One is not greater than the other. They hide nothing from one another. I could quote from all the Gospels where Christ has made known to His disciples and those around Him what the Father has made known to Him. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are full of examples of Christ trying to fill the people with God and empty them of religion. Do you treat your friends as equal to yourself? Greater than yourself? Lesser than yourself? Christ, as part of the Holy Trinity (or Triune if you prefer) could have lorded His relationship with God and the Holy Spirit over everyone, He could have made them feel inferior (as we all are), He could have robbed them of their dignity. Instead He always treated them as students and then friends. He made them feel welcomed. He answered their questions and subjected Himself to their touch. By living in a body made of human flesh He humbled Himself and did so without a second thought.
Unrelenting, self-sacrificial, dutiful, equalizing love. There is only one more part to this definition, this model, that Christ has set forth for us and we can find it in these two verses.
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another." (John 15:16-17)
We have been chosen by God (Ephesians 1:4), as Christ choose the apostles, and how we treat each other was so important that Christ Himself made a lesson out of it and modeled it for us so that we may use a concrete example in our treatment of others. I'll be the first to admit that I have not been as good at this as I could have been. I've let the enemy use my own hurt in certain situations to perpetuate that hurt in some vain attempt at justification for how I felt. It only wound up in more hurt and ruined relationships.
Christ and God throughout the ages have modeled for us the true meaning of friendship. Sometimes it was hard to recognize, as tough love is always hard to accept when you are on the receiving end of the "tough" part. The best we can do, though, is to model ourselves after Christ and God and let ourselves be led in our friendships, whether they are just for a season or longer lasting. When we stumble - and we will stumble, from time to time - know that God is there for us. He's not going to condemn us (though we might be in need of some form of chastisement), but love on us as He always had. Unrelenting, self-sacrificial, dutiful, equalizing (Galatians 3:26-29) love.