Jesus said to His disciples, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 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.” (John 15:12-15 NIV)
Jesus calls us His friend. What a friend indeed! Our human experience with friendship pales when compared to the friendship offered by the Son of God. Sure, most of us get blessed with that one close friend in life. Someone to confide in and that you trust completely. The friend who wants to be around you; not because of your stuff or your home, but just to be with you. As kids it’s called inseparable; impossible to see one without the other. Plenty of laughter and good times; a person you spend time with and it seems completely natural to do so. They stand with you in trouble or even get in the middle of it if they see you are hurt or threatened. This rare kind of friend is a blessing for sure.
Yet I, for one, have never been a perfect friend to anyone. Likewise, even my closest friends during my life have all had their share of imperfections as well. Not so with Jesus!
Friendship with Jesus is an immeasurable upgrade over even the best we have known here on earth. In the scripture passage at the top, He tells us all about it. We are no longer simply servants, but in fact we become co-laborers with Him. Jesus let’s us in on His business, which He has learned from His Father. We can’t go any higher than that!
To be sure, this is not an ‘all get and not give’ relationship for us. Jesus is also clear that if we are to be His friend, we will voluntarily obey His command to love Him. We demonstrate this love for God as we unselfishly love each other. Though this may seem difficult (or at least it does to me when I consider some of the people I know that seem pretty unlovable), God supplies the means: We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
It is simple, but not always easy. When we struggle in this area of loving others, might I suggest we take a step back to consider what it is Jesus offers when He extends friendship to us. It is a friendship I haven’t earned or deserve, but it is offered to me nonetheless. We get the opportunity to love Him simply because He loves us. When I stop looking at others through the lens of my understanding or perception and start to consider them simply as others that the Lord loves equally as much, my heart softens.
When we obey the call to love others, we are directly involved with God’s business. Remember Jesus said He no longer called His disciples servants because He had let them in on the Father’s work. The same applies to us to today. We don’t know God’s Master Plan, but we can participate in our part of it: Love others as Jesus loves us.
Never forget that it is Jesus who brings the ‘weight’ to this friendship relationship. He has already done immeasurably more than we ever could hope or imagine. He proved His love to mankind by dying in our place that our sins could be forgiven. What a friend! If you know that forgiveness, you have a pretty good idea of What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
If you don’t know Jesus as your friend but find yourself interested in doing so, open up your heart to Him. I have experienced enough of His faithful friendship to know that if you want His friendship, He will make the way so that you can.
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One of my Seminary students is from Osaka, Japan. He shared with me how this hymn is widely known and popularly sung at Japanese weddings. Who would guess?
But yes, it urges us to prayer to find refuge in the only One, our Great High Priest in times of need and deep distress.