“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.” John 15:13-14
Friendship is a word that is thrown around casually in our culture. You can “friend” someone on Facebook that you do not even know. But there is a difference in being “friendly” with someone and being a friend. Most people have certain standards for friendship like loyalty, trustworthiness, honesty, and kindness. We expect certain things from friends that we wouldn’t from other people; and we give to our friends in a way that we would not give to others as well. Therefore, friendship carries both privileges and responsibilities.
In John 15, Jesus is preparing His disciples for His coming crucifixion. He will be leaving them to continue His ministry on the earth; and He wants them to understand the relationship they will have with Christ, and with one another. For three years they have followed Him. They have spent all their time with Him, watching and learning from His life. He has modeled for them how to have an intimate relationship with God, and how to love others.
Up to this point they have called Him Rabbi, or Teacher. But now Jesus initiates a shift in the student/teacher relationship they have shared. He tells them that the greatest of love is to lay down your life for your friends. From this one statement we know that Jesus is the greatest friend we will ever have. He carried our cross of sin and shame up to Calvary and offered His life to bring us to God.
Just as friendship with Christ has privileges, it also carries responsibilities. Jesus told the twelve that they were His friends if they obeyed His commands. Is Jesus placing conditions on salvation? Must we work to be saved? No. Jesus is saying that the fruit of friendship with Him will be obedience. We will obey, not to become His friends, but because we are His friends. This is an important distinction. A desire to obey, and a lifestyle that reflects that desire, is the evidence of friendship with Jesus.
Jesus commands His disciples in verse 13 to love each other in the same way that He has loved each of them. He has given them all they need to know about love and friendship. They have seen Him minister, serve, fellowship, teach, forgive, and even weep with His friends. And soon, they will see Him give up His life for His friends. And this is how He desires for believers to love one another. As Christians, our friendships should reflect the character of Christ, and draw others to Him.
Dear Jesus, Thank You for being my best friend. Your love compels me to love others. May my friendships reveal Your character and honor Your name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.