Friendship (Part 2)
I thought today, I would continue with my reflection on friendship (see last Friday’s reflection). As humans, as Christians, as the Community Church, friendship and love is so important!
Last week, I started with the question – How much do you love your friends? How far would you go for them? Would you be prepared to die for them?
Well, a swift Greek lesson based on John 15 will reveal the “stretch goal” for us –
The Greek word translated friend in this chapter is philo. And so one might presume that the word used for loving our friends would be phileo: friendship love – love and affection between close friends. But the word actually used here is much stronger; it is agape: the highest form of love. I just love that word – “agape”. It is sometimes referred to as divine love. It is unconditional, self-sacrificing, self-giving love. A love we routinely think of as being from God to us, (and more challengingly, from us to God.) But PLEASE NOTE WE ARE ALSO CALLED TO LOVE OUR FRIENDS WITH THIS HIGHEST FORM OF LOVE – AGAPE.
We are called to love our friends with the same kind of unconditional love as God loves us with; as Jesus loves us with. Do you love your friends with agape love? Do you love any of them like that? Are you loved like that by your friends?
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”
That call to agape love reveals something about the kind of friends we should choose, the kind of love we should look for, and the kind of love we should give. So choose your friends wisely! And once you have found good friends like this, treasure them, nurture them, love them, agape them!
AND LISTEN TO THEM. LET THEM HELP SHAPE YOU AND YOUR LIFE! GROW TOGETHER!
What sort of friends, what sort of attributes? Well, again we looked at that last week. I said – “the following attributes we would look for in friendship – Loyalty, standing by one another, to be able to say and hear – “I believe in you”. Sacrificial love, to give as well as receive. To prefer the other, not only in it for what we can get out of it. To speak truth to each other, not in order to undermine or tear down, but in order to build up. To hurt, and cry and rejoice with one another. To listen to each other.”
Do your friends tear you down or build you up? What kind of friends should you keep? The kind who bring out the best in you, who lift you up, who encourage you, and make you a better person.
And that means letting them speak truth to you. When that comes from agape you can accept it, receive it, learn from it, grow from it. If it comes from somewhere else, somewhere more self-centred, more competitive, well ……..
And the friend who is perfectly like this, is God himself. – God has chosen you, he calls you friend, not servant. John 15:15 “ 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.” He loves you with agape love.
“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! (…) Are we weak and heavy laden, Cumbered with a load of care? Precious Saviour, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer”
As we noted last week, this sort of friendship requires openness. God wants to love and comfort you, but also to speak truth to you, enable you to transform and grow. He loves you too much to leave you as you are!
And what about being open with God who is your friend? Unlike any other friend, God already knows you through and through, he knows everything about you.
How does that make you feel? Does it make you hold back?
Don’t! – God is a true friend, true agape. Some of the things he says to you may be difficult, but it always comes from absolute love. He always wants the best for you, and he knows how to get there. You just need to accept, to allow him.
My friends, God loves you! He loves you so, so much. You need not fear. God is the one who loves you! Jesus is the one who did indeed give up his life for his friends (even before they were friends). He chose you as a friend. He loves you that much, agape love. He actually did die for you. He is SO good for you.
BUT what about your part? – God has chosen us to be his friend, but we are called to be his friend too. Do you choose him as a friend? Do you love him with agape love? Would you die for him, as he has died for you? When he rose from the dead, he met Peter, who had denied him. And the burning question, the most important thing for Jesus to ask Peter was “Peter, do you agape me?” Peter struggled to affirm this, and replied “I do phileo” you. After repeated attempts to push Peter to take a further step, Jesus met Peter where he was and asked “Peter, do you phileo me?” I am sure as Peter went on, he could indeed have answered “yes, I agape you.” Certainly it seems likely he had agape love for Jesus when (as is likely) he was martyred.
Maybe that change took place at Pentecost? For it is the Holy Spirit in us who transforms us.
So, one last time – Do you agape Jesus? Do you agape your friends?
Not sure? – Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you, to work agape love within you. For it is he who can change you. And may he do the same for me also!
God bless you, my friends