Do You Really Want To Be Jesus' Friend?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (jn 14:12-14)
I’ve been meditating on these words ever since Mike Baker, the minister for the Lewisburg, TN congregation, mentioned them Thursday night at the Cane Ridge Restoration Lectureships at the North Lexington, KY congregation. They chose “Christ Receiveth Sinful Men” as their theme, and Luke 15 as their textual focus. Powerful preaching and teaching ensued, and I recommend the recordings to anyone interested. Bro. Baker’s topic was, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners,” and he mentioned this passage as one of many examples of Jesus’ friendship with sinners.
For years, these have been pretty and inspirational words. Who can imagine anything better than being a friend of Jesus? ‘Hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized,” and you become a friend of Jesus! What a deal, right?
Umm, no. My failure to understand, I think, has been enhanced by my tendency to race ahead to the word ‘friend’ without really listening to the words Jesus has to say. His friendship is conditioned, he says, by our willingness to do what he says. Rather than maybe pay attention to what he JUST told them to do, I’ve paid more attention to commands from other areas. God, forgive me for my immature handling of your Word. I begin now to understand why I have been so willing to shift my attention. The ‘five-finger’ plan of salvation is a lot less intense than what Jesus commands in the Upper Room, a few short hours before his own death.
Simply, Jesus says that if we want to be his friends, we have to die for one another. We have to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. The rest of the passage (especially v. 16b “And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name”) doesn’t leave us the bizarrely simple luxury of waiting for some dramatic martyrdom moment.
No, we are to follow Jesus, dying daily for our brothers and sisters as we sacrifice what we want for what they need. This is a hard world, and we’re just too fallible and finite (selfish & dumb) to fix it. Friendship with Jesus is the only blessing that will save the world, but it comes at a stiff price. In fact, the only thing more expensive than friendship with Christ is enmity against Christ. Kierkegaard writes, “It costs a man just as much or even more to go to hell than to come to heaven. Narrow, exceedingly narrow is the way to perdition!” Proverbs 13:15 says, “The way of the transgressor is hard…” (emphasis mine). Dallas Willard writes, “We would do [well] to lay a clear, constant emphasis upon the cost of non-discipleship as well” (emphasis Willard’s).
Paul explains Jesus’ offer of friendship to the Christian assembly in Rome like this: “I appeal to you therefore, adelphoi, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The result is the same: Jesus says, “…I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father…” while Paul says, “…so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I comand you.”
Do you really want to be Jesus’ friend? Pray for me.
in HIS love,