“Greater than this love no one has, that one would give one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you ‘servants,’ because a servant doesn’t know what his master does. You I have called ‘friends’, because everything I have heard from My father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15, NIV)
I met an old friend for breakfast. We hadn’t spent time together for a while and afterwards he asked, “So what did you want to talk to me about?” I responded, smiling, “my agenda today was simply you.” Being with a friend and just sharing where we’re at is one of my favorite activities. I learned it early. As a teenager, I’ll never forget having a conversation with my youth leader in his Volkswagen Beetle while a prayer meeting was going on in church. As we talked, I asked him, “Bob, don’t you need to get inside for prayer meeting?” His response? “Greg, what we’re doing here is more significant.” He wasn’t just my youth leader. Bob was, and still is, my friend.
One of the dearest thoughts to me is this: that Jesus calls me “friend.” And it is the same Jesus who gives me the power to be a friend, a true friend, to others. I believe that all ministry, if it is truly Christian ministry, has the mark of what Rodney Clapp calls “the subversive Christian practice of friendship.”
I remember taking a walk with a Croatian brother with whom I was hoping to develop a ministry partnership. I asked him, “What could a missionary like me do to help you?” He looked at me and said, “How about just being a friend?” I was a bit surprised. He went on to say, “People are always calling me or contacting me because they want me to do something for them. Few ever ask me, ‘How are you doing personally?’” I’ve never forgotten that exchange.
The space to become a true friend lies within the ever-widening love-circle of Christ’s friends. In that circle, I have the power to be a friend because Jesus Christ, my Friend, laid down His life for me. His death and resurrection mean death to my old selfish way of life and resurrection to a new God-filled life. The memory of how He laid down His life is also my ever-living instruction on how to live. This is why the communion celebration, for example, is so important. We together proclaim among ourselves the Lord’s death—the death of our true Friend—until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).
I also have the power to be a friend because Christ, my Friend, calls me His (John 15:15). Think of it: you and I now have a Friend who openly claims us. I know how I feel when someone says of me, “This is my friend, Greg.” Jesus says, “I have called you friends.” Our identity has changed. God and we are no longer strangers, no longer enemies. Why? Because Jesus says so.
This friendship with God has the power to change the quality of all my other friendships and relationships. It has the power to draw people to Jesus Christ without any manipulation from me. Think of what the world would be like if we all made more friends with no ulterior motive, were following Jesus in the company of friends rather than isolation and were building bridges rather than walls! Being friends of Jesus gives us the power to transform the world—one friendship at a time.
Warmly in Christ,
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NIV)
When was the last time you met with another person with no other agenda in mind than your friendship with that person?
Is God speaking to you about checking up on another friend with whom you’ve not connected for some time? Who might that be? How will you respond?