Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Missing the Mark (Friendship Defined)

via Flicker by gilderic Sometimes I think we have this whole friendship thing backwards.  Is a friends someone who supports you?  Are they a person that comforts you in a time of need?  When your back is against the wall do they stand with you?  Apparently not! 

Jesus, in the last instructions before going out the the garden of Gethsemane, called the disciples friends (John 15:15).  These are the same 11 men (Judas had already left) that would in a matter of hours abandon and deny Jesus.  They did not support Him, comfort Him, nor stand with Him.  And yet Jesus called them friends.  How could that be? 

First Jesus was able to see beyond the night into their possibilities.  So often we look to people as they are or that we anticipate how the will be over the short term to define our friendship.  Jesus looked beyond this to their potential.  All too often we look to see what can be offered in this relationship or what we feel we deserve from this relationship as a measure of friend.  It is a great thing to have a friend who does not see you as you are, but as you could be.  This is powerful, but notice something.  Friendship is defined by what you do and not what the other does for you.  In essence you choose your friends by see their inner potential. 

Second Jesus was about to make the greatest sacrifice one can make for another person.   He said that laying down one's life was the greatest act of love that one can express (John 15:13).  In this respect Jesus was defining friendship again by what He was doing rather than who his disciples were.  We again often look to see what can be given rather than what can be given up.  Acts of love, service, and sacrifice are given to friends.  If you do not do these then that person is not a friend.  Notice:

You are My friends if you do what I command you.
John 15:14 (HCSB)

Jesus is plainly saying that friendship is based on our actions toward the other.  In this case obedience to His commands.  This makes me think of:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.
Matthew 22:37-40 (HCSB)

Also of:

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don't even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 (HCSB)

Jesus has called us to a different idea of friendship than the world has to offer.  His calling is one of service and sacrifice.  Demanding our own is not part of the equation.  Our friends may hurt us, abandon us in our time of need, but we can continue to be their friend in spite of their short comings.  Don't get me wrong, Jesus plainly sets boundaries with people who are not good for us to have fellowship with.  Often this is when they would lead us into either legalism or licentiousness (both being forms of disobedience to God by the way).  However, I do not see Jesus defining friendship in terms of what they can offer us, but rather in terms of what we can offer them. 

You see friendship is yours to define by how you serve others.  Jesus is our ultimate friend based on His sacrifice.   We become His friend when we act in the same way loving God and loving others.  Man I have some work to do!

Blessings to you.