Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

John 15: 13 (NASB)

 

Jesus said this, and we know what He meant by this statement. He would be going to His untimely death in order to provide the sacrifice that sin demanded for the sakes of each and every one of His followers and for all of us throughout the balance of history, too. God holds this strange view of humanity, despite our antagonism toward Him or even our overt rejection of His love, truth, justice, and call to engage in righteous living, God, the Lord of Creation and Ruler of the Universe, is our friend. This is a hard concept to embrace for most of us. When we say the word friend we each probably call to mind certain images and thoughts. Friend is very important to some, and it is vague and unformed for others. God’s idea of what it means to be a friend is very deep and powerful. He literally means that He did give up life in order to bring about the salvation of millions of people that He views as His friends.

 

This idea of salvation carries with it some important aspects as well, for we are saved from spiritual death for sure, but we are also saved into a relationship with God that begins at the moment of acceptance of this gift that we know as Christ, and it cotinues onward for all of the unending duration of the eternal existence of our souls. Here is where I make a bit of a left turn when it comes to considering what Jesus said. This is that strange moment when my GPS tells me to make that unexplained and frankly impossible change in direction as it says, “Turn right (or left)” when there is nothing but air and precipitous drop-off in that direction. Well, I think that my thoughts are sounder than that electronic lunacy. It seems to me that Jesus is also speaking to each and every one of us regarding the way that we care about and for others. Christ would have us adopt the wildly radical concept that our worlds are populated by people that we need to consider to be friends.

 

He also would have us enter into those relationships, whether deep and long-established or of shorter duration and shallower, with the sort of commitment and even passionate desire to serve the needs of these others that He demonstrated in His willingness to give His life for each of us. We encounter friends with every turn of the road throughout all of our days. We also pass by and bounce off of people with needs and hurts and brokenness that need love and care. Jesus wants for us to open our eyes, be available to hear stories, give of our hearts and our resources to meet those needs. In Christ, we have more than we will ever need in this life, and we certainly possess more than will be required to engage with people’s lives and help them with what they need to get through the day. For the most part people do not need our wealth or our possessions, they are dying for a listening ear, suffering alone when a companion for the journey would ease the burden greatly. People need friends who will set aside the urgency of their lives in order to walk a mile with them. We join Christ in laying down life in order to save when we see the people that we encounter as He does; that is, as friends.

For Pete, Hollie, Barry and Tracie you know what I mean.

Surly goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Ps 23:6

 

We already know that there will be trouble in our lives because of our desire to serve God. This is a fact of living in a world that sold out its birthright in order to go about living on its own. There is an antagonism that exists between people who know Christ and those who do not accept the deep and intimate relationship that He enters into with us. The fallen world does not get the desire to be so close to Christ, and in fact it hates it; more so, it hates the God that we serve. Yet, God promises us these simple truths from the Psalms.

 

I think that as we keep our eyes focused on Christ, we keep our hearts centered in His reality. Then the negative voices don’t seem so loud and clear to us, and we don’t allow them the same access to our minds. They can scream at us with all the angry vigor of before, but there is a greatly decreased impact. As we look upon God, He shows us the image of us that He sees; for, in and through Christ we are beautiful, capable, confident, loved and loving. We are now surrounded by His glory, and we are filled with His grace. The goodness and the mercy that are following us about are for our benefit, and these characteristics of God are also granted to us as our own so that we can bring them into our contact with the rest of humanity.

 

God takes us from our place as residents of the rubbish heap of ruin that sin has made out of creation, and He moves us to a place of honor at His side. Our new position in Christ creates a reality that makes the place where we are in our daily lives into God’s palace; thus, we are always living in the house of the Lord. We are continually seated at a banquet where the tables are filled to overflowing with Christ’s goodness, mercy, grace, peace, and love. So, we are equipped to be people who also grant the same blessings that we have received so abundantly and freely from Christ to the hungry, lonely, and desperately needy people of the world around us.