Friends of Jesus
This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he give you.
But remember the root command: Love one another. John 15:12-17 The Message
Jesus’ message becomes difficult in this passage – “you are to love one another as I have loved you,” even if it means laying down your life for a friend. And if you accept and obey my commandment of love – then you are my friends. Jesus changes completely with these words his relationship with his disciples – no longer will the disciples be servants, or slaves or students – instead they are his friends. He chose them; he shared his life with them; he taught them all that they knew and now they are to do what he would do and love the way he loved.
Now, it is much easier to be a servant or slave, than a friend. Servants do not have to make personal decisions – they simply do as they are told for the master is in charge and carries the full responsibility. Servants can be loyal, faithful, never complain and even go beyond their assigned task – but they can still say: “It’s not my problem or responsibility. I just work here!”
Jesus does not want his followers to be people who simply do as they are told, without question, without commitments, without emotional involvement. He wants his followers to be friends – people who are willing to work with him. Jesus wants each of us to be his friend – a friend that will love their neighbor as themselves; a friend that will be hospitable to the stranger; a friend that will care for and work for the outcast, the poor and those living on the margin of society; a friend that shares his vision of what the world might be and commit to work toward that vision.
Friendship is never easy. Certainly being a friend of Jesus is difficult, risky and something that most of us probably are not ready to do, nor capable of doing to its fullest. To be a friend of Jesus in this day and age may involve us in any or all of the following:
- Working toward valuing the differences of the many people in our community instead of fearing the differences.
- Welcoming the immigrant and the stranger instead if impeding their progress in becoming participating citizens;
- Speaking my mind openly to God in prayer and listening to God’s words for me instead of worrying about the “how” of prayer or if my prayers are worthy of God’s attention.
- Joining with God and others in a mutual responsibility for God’s earth and creation instead of misusing and abusing the environment.
- Becoming a compassionate person – a person who is willing to stand with those who are hurting and suffering, and to challenge the systems that abuse and oppress instead of being apathetic and unconcerned.
- Listening to family members and thus expressing love through attention and openness instead of day-dreaming or giving an occasional “I see” during conversations with spouse, partner, or children
- Loving those who are the outcasts, those that are different from me in such a way that I am willing to learn from them and to work with them instead of discounting, neglecting or paying no attention to these children of God
- Speaking out against racism as did Jesus in the story of the Good Samaritan
- Attacking the improper use of wealth as did Jesus in the story of the rich young ruler
- Pressing for proper care for persons’ needs, no matter the circumstances as did Jesus when he healed on the Sabbath
Oh, yes being a friend of Jesus is not for the faint hearted. It involves us in loving and seeking justice for all. We are accountable for our end of the friendship and in some mysterious and unknown way we can and must hold God accountable. To be friends of the crucified one, of the risen Christ is a life-threatening and a life-redeeming relationship.
Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.