At our home group this week, Ricardo led an inspiring study on John 15:12-16:4. We spent quite a time on the following verses (John 15:12-14) “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. ”
How much do you love your friends? How far would you go for them? Would you be prepared to die for them?
We considered 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. This is what it is to be friends. I am sure you could add more.
And Jesus says in v15, “I have called you friends”. Hear those words, and receive them. That list of attributes of friendship, that is how Jesus is with you. How are you with him?
And before the study, we reflected on the end of 1 Cor. 13. Lately we have been thinking a lot about spiritual gifts in relation to listening to God. But let us not forget that these are secondary to our relationship with God, our love for God, our knowing God. Nothing should usurp the primacy of that. 1 Cor 13:8-12 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part (…) Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
If as friends we are to love and be loved, then we need to be real with one another, to be open, prepared to be vulnerable. Otherwise the relationship is not with the true “self” but with a mirage, a made-up image, like an actor playing a role. We must be willing to fully know the other, and also to be open and be fully known.
God knows you fully; you are an open book to him. Are you trying to hide? You can’t! How well do you know God? What image do you have of him? Do you know the real, true God as he really is, or do you hold all sorts of false images of him, born out of your own experiences, hurts, and self-doubts?
God is the friend, who comes alongside, who stands by you. God is the one who believes in you, who calls you precious and honoured. God is the one who comforts you, loves you. God is the friend who loved you enough to die for you, and this even whilst we were still against him.
Rom 5:8-11 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
So there is the challenge: to be friends of God, to love him with all our heart and soul and mind. And to be friends with each other. To love each other as he has loved us (John 15:12).
And then to push the boat out even further, and love our neighbour, and even our enemy.
God bless you, my friends