Are you Jesus’ friend?
In the age of Facebook and workplace acquaintances, being “friends” is a strange thing. On Facebook, I currently have 753 friends (if you’re not my “friend”, feel free to friend me.). I actually do know these people. I met them at school, on blogs, through work, and even at street festivals in New York City. It’s actually fascinating to see, in numbers, just how big my network of relationships is – and this doesn’t include the countless people I’m connected to off-line. These are all people I know but can I really consider them my friends?
In the ancient world, being a “friend” was a specific kind of thing. It was a word used to describe two kinds of relationships. One type was very political – a patron-client connection. Someone with power, wealth, or social status would form relationship (a “friendship”) with someone without that kind of status. They would be friends but the friendship was rooted in what either person gained from the other. The other type of relationship was more equal. It was a relationship where each person focused always on the well-being of the other person. This last definition is what we today think of when we think of our “friends.” But this also means that a friend is more than an identity or a title. A friend is someone who acts for the well-being of the other. A friend is someone who shows love. And this love is a willingness to give up everything, including our lives, for another person. This action isn’t restricted only to our family members or our spouse. According to Jesus (John 15:9-17), we are called to give up everything we have for anyone who follows Jesus – including someone we don’t even know.
Friendship, like love, is a difficult action. As Emily Askew writes, “love and friendship may seem self-explanatory for us in the twenty-first century…[but] love in this passage is not a psychologist state, nor is it anywhere described as an internal quality” (Feasting on the Gospels, John volume 2, page 176). Love is more than just a warm and fuzzy feeling. Friendship is more than just companionship and compatibility. Being Jesus’ friend means we are called to act like Jesus since he gave the world (John 3:16) everything he had. It’s Jesus, not us, who decides who follows him. And it’s through regular worship, prayer, and reading of scripture that Jesus helps us see the person next to us as someone who is our friend. And we are here to love all of Jesus’ friends – even when we don’t like them.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 5/6/2018.