MY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron
This week has been a whirlwind – loading a rental truck, saying good-bye to dear friends, and welcoming two sons who helped unload our truck. The next morning, through some amazing circumstances, we ran into a couple we’d met in college more than fifty years ago. Today we left all our moving boxes in a jumble, and drove five hours to spend time at a camp for senior adults – where we found yet more friends, some “old” and some brand-new.
Last week we talked about unity that comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit. One way to describe that oneness might be friendship. After instructing his disciples to “‘love one another, just as I have loved you’” (John 15:12), Jesus gave those who obey this command the privilege of being his friends (verses 14–15). This was further confirmed when he said, “‘this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’” (John 17:3). He calls us to an intimate relationship with the triune God (14:20–23). In this new love, we have the privilege of enjoying true friendship with others.
The focus on connectedness is not something new. In Genesis 2:18, after pronouncing everything good, God saw a problem. “‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’” Before the fall, before sin, and even while still living in a perfect world, Adam had a need – community.
After the first sin, their time of living in fellowship with God was replaced with isolation and solitude, and Adam and Eve hid from God. In the fullness of time, Jesus came to bridge that separation for all humanity.
The Cross of Jesus is history’s most heroic act of friendship. On the night before he died, he explained the meaning of the cross to his disciples. “‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends’” (John 15:13). This love Jesus not only commanded, but also demonstrated. The cross serves as atonement for our sins, as the Son bore the wrath of God in our place. It is also a personal act of friendship. In his death, Jesus expressed his love for his people.
A lady in our last church is one of the most loving, expressive persons we know. She often refers to her circle of acquaintances by saying, “These are my people!” In a richer sense, believers become Jesus’ people as soon as we receive him in faith.
Many Christians hesitate to call Jesus a friend, but he doesn’t share that misgiving. And it matters to him that we embrace his offer of companionship. He invites us to understand our relationship in terms of friendship (John 15:12-17). We may need to exchange the either-or approach—“Jesus is our King, not our friend!”—for the biblical both-and: Jesus is our glorious king AND our greatest friend.
Our friendships show the world that we belong to Jesus. What this lonely world of broken relationships needs to see are churches filled with friendships—imperfect friendships, to be sure, but relationships filled with true repentance and forgiveness. Only then will they know that something has come from above. They will see that all this talk of Jesus as the friend of sinners is real.
That’s what Jesus said in John 13:35: “‘by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” It was later in this same conversation that Jesus defined “love for one another” in terms of the mutual love of friends. This is how we show the world that we are Jesus’ disciples: when we love one another as he loved us, namely, with sacrificial friendship.
Friendship––with God and one another––will become our greatest joy. The apostle John wrote to believers for this purpose: “‘so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete’” (1 John 1:3-4). According to John, vertical fellowship with God together with horizontal fellowship equals completed joy. In the midst of a busy week, our greatest joy is found in fellowship with God and one another.