May 13, 2012
The Necessity of Friends
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.
Jesus used the word love in many ways depending upon his audience. For instance, when Jesus said to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life,” he was speaking of a love that flows to all people who had been made in the image of God. God loves them all and did not want any to fall. Oneness in Christ Jesus, however, comes only for those who trust him as their Savior and Lord.
In today’s text, Jesus is talking to a different audience. He tells us to remain in his love, meaning that it is possible for us to fall out of love. We find that can be true in earthly situations. The love we felt for our high school friends is much different at our 50th class reunion than it was on our graduation. While we may still have really strong feelings for them, the relationships are not as intimate as they once were.
Our relationship with Jesus Christ is very special, for he gave his life for us. Jesus Christ paid a great price in order that we could be called the sons of God. Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for the sheep. Jesus said that our relationship with him is more than being his servant, because the servant does not know the master’s business. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus is calling us his friends. We need him, and we need our Christian friends. We need to stand together and love one another.
Living in our world, with its indifference and hostility to the Christian faith, can be a challenge. It is during those times when we feel hostility that we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to give us encouragement. For instance, let’s say it is Sunday morning. We can’t wait to get to church and sing some great old hymns like “The Church’s One Foundation,” and “My God, How Wonderful Thou Art.” The pastor spent a lot of time preparing his sermon and wants to make his point in a dramatic fashion.
In that setting, we are in the midst of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our oneness with them is different from what is in the world, for Christ has bound us together. I go there and worship with others who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and need him in their lives. Their situations may have been very disappointing, but in that setting they are able to find others who are disciples and with whom they can discuss their difficulties. As we share our experiences with one another, we are again reminded of Jesus’ words: “Cast all your cares on me. I really care for you.”
We need to be reminded of that promise and many others. We also need to be reminded that, although life can be extremely difficult, our days on this earth are limited, but eternity is before us. And when my last breath is made, I will see Jesus face to face.
Think of how difficult life must have been for the apostles. Paul was thrown into a dungeon. However, his friends came to be with him, and, more than that, he had a Lord who was right there with him.
It is good to know we have these friends in Jesus Christ. The church worship service gives us the opportunity to experience that oneness we have in Jesus Christ. The radio also is a wonderful thing. We at Christian Crusaders are so grateful to God that we can proclaim the Gospel to you today, that they can also sense our oneness. And, if they are not already a believer, they can accept him into their life.
Some of you have sons or daughters who attend a university. In many of these schools, the environment is very indifferent, even hostile to Jesus. I visited one day with my granddaughter who is graduating from a large university, and I asked her about the temptations at that school. She replied that the temptations were many, both inside and outside the classroom. If a person confessed Jesus Christ as Savior, they were considered somewhat different. Social concerns, such as sexual intimacy, could be tremendously difficult. But she found it very helpful to be a part of a group of like-minded individuals. That small group of friends helps take away much of the pressure to join the crowd. They also help bear the burden when something is breaking the heart, which can happen often at the university setting. It is good to have a small group with whom they meet regularly knowing that no matter what the situation may be from one week to the next, they could discuss it with one another.
Jesus had his small group – only twelve disciples. And you can be sure that Peter, who often was rather mouthy and an extrovert, could turn to Andrew, who was much quieter, and say something like this: “Andrew, you are a person of prayer – I am too. I know that while I have been out proclaiming the Word, you have been at home praying for me. I really need to talk with you right now.”
Imagine how Thomas must have felt when he admitted that unless he could put his finger into those nail-pierced hands, he would not believe Jesus had been raised from the dead. Think of him going to Philip, and saying “Philip, you didn’t doubt Jesus’ resurrection. Your faith might have been stronger than mine. I fell, and my heart is heavy. Can you help me, Philip? Can you help me?”
Or think of the family whose son comes home and tells his parents that he and his wife are going to divorce. Although both he and his wife know divorce is not God’s will, they believe it is for the best because they do not get along.
So the parents open the scriptures to their son and daughter-in-law, but with no success. Finally, they turn to their Christian friends and ask how they handled it when their daughter divorced her husband. They have friends with whom they spend more time, but none closer than these, for they have studied the scriptures together, and they know the Lord Jesus personally. They have prayed together. Those are the kinds of friends we need at times like these.
We are so thankful for our Christian friends and long to be with them when they are far away. We will even drive a great distance to spend time with them, for we need our small groups.
We also need our church friends. Sometimes I hear people say they get more out of the Word if they stay at home and read the Bible and pray alone. It is very important to spend time alone with God in his Word and in prayer. However, our Christian faith needs close friends if we are to get along in this world. That is why Jesus Christ commands us to love one another, just as he has loved us.
Think of how the Lord loves us in the small group sense of the word. Love one another.
Rev. Homer Larsen