I like how Jesus came to call his disciples “friends.” I doubt if he would have been able to do that when they were first hanging out together. But over time, all relationships change.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” [from John 15]
A few months ago I was eating pizza with some of the church’s youth at a Sunday night service and I asked them what it means to be a friend. I wrote down all the definitions, because they were better than any I would come up with. “A friend is someone who is herself.” “A friend is nice.” “A friend cares about you, listens to your problems, and helps you.” “A friend thinks about you before he thinks about himself.” “A friend cares about other people’s opinions and beliefs, and respects them.”
I notice that all these definitions describe how a person acts, not just how she feels or what she says. The worst kind of friend is the kind who says he cares about you, but whose actions show indifference, or worse.
If this saying of Jesus, which is set on the night of his arrest, is about the church to come, then I think one thing is both obvious and interesting: people in the church ought to be friends. Friends are people who can count on each other, who say positive things about and to one another. The problem is, of course, that not all churches are places where friends are in abundance.
I know a woman who’s been super involved in churches for over 20 years. Recently she started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. There, she says, she discovered the “church” she’d always been seeking. Her AA friends listen without judgment and, when she’s under stress, they simply call to check on her.
This may not be easy. Love can get tired. Our ability to love everyone is limited. None of us does it perfectly.
But God has a store of love from which we can draw when we have exhausted our own resources. And so we just keep trying.
We’ve been friended already. Now we just have to friend others.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2015