Summary: Jesus calls me His friend - who me?
I first met Ken when I was three and he was three and a half, when our Mothers started us at Sunday School on exactly the same day. Later, when we were eight, we joined the Church Choir together, and then, when our voices broke at about the same time, we went into the Mens` section, singing Bass.
At the age of 13 we began training together to be Sunday School Teachers. When we were 15, fed up with having nothing to do, we got together with some of our friends to start a Youth Club in our Church, and for years and years we went on holiday together. We were inseparable - we were friends.
Our friendship wasn`t all plain sailing, of course. There were things about Ken which drove me wild. For instance, if we`d arranged to go out together, he would never turn up on time. One night we`d planned to go to a cinema together, and he was late - an hour and a half late. I was fuming. Then he rolled up, quite nonchalantly, and all he could say was, "Sorry, I forgot", and, because it was the tenth time that month that he`d forgotten or was late, I would be just about ready to explode, when he would crack a joke, and that was that! You just had to forgive him......
Yes, Ken had plenty of faults, and so did I, but somehow, in the end, it just didn`t seem to matter. No matter what happened, no matter how frustrated we got with each other, we remained the greatest friends, and we`d do anything for each other.
I learned a lot about friendship from my friend, Ken.
I learned that friendship is togetherness.
I learned that you`ve got to make allowances, and be ready to forgive.
I learned that, for a friendship to survive. both parties have got to put something into the friendship - that there`s got to be give and take on both sides.
I learned that there can be no friendship if one is continually giving and the other continually taking; Any friendship like that is heading for the rocks.
I also learned that friendship is supporting each other through thick and thin, good times and bad.
Now the startling thing about this is to do with Jesus. On the night before He died, He called His Disciples together, and said to them, "There is no greater love than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. And you are my friends, if you do what I command you to do!"
I find that astounding, for two reasons: First, there have been quite a number of people who have sacrificed their lives for their friends. In the Japanese Prisoner of War Camps in the 2nd World War, a giant of a man faded away and died. The doctors discovered that, for months, he had been giving away most of his food to those who were in the Camp Hospital, so that they could stay alive. It had cost him his life.
In Jesus, however, it is God who is laying down His life, and doing it for those who are just about to betray Him. He knows they will betray Him, and yet He still calls them His friends! And He makes it plain that this friendship is not just for them, 2,000 years ago. It`s for me, and for you. He calls us friends too. How can He, knowing what I`m like? But He does!
The second astounding thing is that it`s not all give on His part and take on ours. We have to respond to His offer of friendship, and we don`t become His friends until we do. Peter had to discover this. Peter had heard Jesus say, "You are my friend", but then Peter denied knowing Him. Was that the end of the friendship? NO!
Jesus pursued Peter after the Resurrection, and made him face up to his betrayal. Then He forgave him - but Peter had to respond. When Christ told him to "Feed my lambs", "Feed my sheep", Peter showed that he had accepted His forgiveness and His friendship, by doing what Jesus told him to do.
Jesus is my friend. He is YOUR friend too. This friendship isn`t all one-sided - it`s not just us taking the salvation life He offers. We show that we are His friends by doing what He tells us to do. That commandment was "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you are to love one another". We show that we are friends of Jesus by the quality of love and self-sacrifice that we show!
I`ll finish with a meditation on friendship:
"O the comfort of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh words nor to measure thoughts,