NO LONGER DO I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15 ESV).
What have we done to the word “friend?” Merriam Webster defines the word as, “one attached to another by affection or esteem.”
Yet, when I look out into our community and into the lives of so many, I begin to become saddened by how fragile we have made friendships and the attachments found there.
It is as if, in recent years through our actions, we have added the word “inconsistently” before the word “attached” to Webster’s definition.
Is it out of a sense of independence, self-reliance, pride or good old-fashioned laziness that we have stripped down a word once used by our Lord to describe his relationship to us?
The text above from John 15:15 immediately follows our Lord’s words, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:12 ESV).
The creator of Heaven and Earth once used the term “friend” to describe the relationship with you he came to initiate and maintain with you through his blood (1 Peter 2:10; Ephesians 2:13).
The term friend once was used to describe a relationship so important it was worth laying down one’s life for, now it has been reduced to the click of a button.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not slamming Facebook, I am talking candidly about how disposable we see relationships becoming in our life and time.
It was once described to me by a mentor of mine that we are seeing meaningful relationships in the lives of those we care about being reduced to “toilet-paper relationships,” meaning people will maintain the relationship as long as they are useful, but once they are used up they flush them.
It is as if we have taken this basic form of relationship and reduced it to a series of gambles for opportunity, advantage and resources.
I see this in how people work for the companies they work for, the communities they serve, right down to the people they are married to.
For me, it isn’t about whether we have found ourselves here because of independence, self-reliance, pride, entitlement or good old fashioned laziness.
I believe all of the above is at work.
What matters to me is where we are going to go from here.
In a time in history when people are affluent, and inundated with the next greatest products and sanitizing opportunities only imagined by previous generations, we have something to offer this world that it desperately needs and currently lacks: friendship.
Friendship demonstrates patience when a wrong is committed.
Friendship is not looking for the next opportunity to get ahead or to take from others.
A friend does not insist on his/her own way, is not irritable or resentful. True friendship, the type of friendship discussed by Christ in John 15:15, is found in the love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-13).
Evangelism and witnessing are such intimidating words to Christians in today’s day.
So let’s use words that don’t scare us.
Be a friend, a true friend.
Be a friend who does not judge, is not in it for yourself, who is ready for the work it’s going to take, and teaches the world that it is because of the friend we have in Jesus that makes it possible.
What this world needs now, more than ever, is a friend willing to listen, embrace and encourage at all hours of the day with no motivation but to love in Christ those in your life.
We don’t need another program, flier, campaign or promise.
This world needs us to take back the word “friend” and live it.
Let us take to heart the words with which Paul encourages those in Colossae: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12 ESV).”
To God be the glory!
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]