“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.”
God designed the human heart with the miraculous capacity to love. Our life-experience centers around relationships, friends, family and our love for God the Creator. Without loving relationships, our lives would be incomplete and joyless. To be alone, to be truly isolated from other people and without a meaningful relationship with God, would be to live with permanent emptiness in your heart. So, we fill that emptiness with friendships and devotion to God, and we find the joy God created us to feel.
Jesus often shocked people by describing our relationship with God in personal, familial, intimate terms. He referred to God as his Father and us as God’s children. He gave the Holy Spirit names like Comforter, Counselor and Advocate. And then Jesus told his followers that He considers them his friends. Not subordinates, not servants, but friends in whom He can confide and who share in his work. Speaking of the relationship between people and God in these ways was foreign to many in Jesus’ day, but it flows perfectly from what we know of the God who loves us and designed us to love him back. God is love (1 John 4:8).
So, what does it mean for us to be a friend of Jesus? First and foremost, it’s an unfathomable honor to be drawn into a loving, trusting relationship with the King of kings. To think of Jesus as our friend shouldn’t bring him down to our level but should magnify our commitment to following, obeying and loving him. We don’t serve Jesus because He forces us to. We don’t obey him out of fear. We don’t love him with empty words or artificial rituals. We joyfully walk alongside our Savior, going where He leads because we trust him and know He always seeks to bless and protect us. We also join our Friend in his work of sharing Good News with the world. What matters most to Jesus matters to us because He is our friend. Our friendship with Jesus also teaches us how to be a good friend to the people around us. Just as He lay down his life for us, now we lay down our lives in sacrificial, self-giving love for others. That’s what God designed us to do. That’s what Jesus died to set us free to do. That’s what we are called to do for God’s glory in this life and for eternity.
Father, You are love. Jesus, You show me perfect love. Spirit, You teach me how to love as Jesus did. Thank You for creating me to love You and to love the people around me. Help me to lay down my life for my friends in the name of my Savior. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian