Summary: Everyone needs friends. The reason the Toy Story franchise is so popular is because everyone can relate to the idea of having friends who stick with you no matter what. But for followers of Jesus this definition doesn't go far enough.
Randy Newman wrote a song called, "You Got a Friend in Me". Most folks recognize this song as the theme to the popular Toy Story franchise. According to Randy a real friend is someone who loves you and sticks with you even through your worst troubles. This is a great definition of what a friend is, but for me, it falls short of what I want in in a real friend. Everyone needs friends. The reason the Toy Story franchise is so popular is because everyone can relate to the idea of having friends who stick with you no matter what.
But for followers of Jesus this definition doesn't go far enough. There's something more we're looking for in a close friend other than just someone who will stick with us in tough times. To find out what we're really looking for in a friend, we need to turn our attention from Toy Story to Jesus.
The Bible shares a bunch of stories about friends. Some of the more common stories are about David and Jonathan, Daniel and his friends, Jesus and Peter, James and John, Paul and Silas and many others. All of these stories have a common theme when we talk about who real friends are. A close and real friend will love God with you. You will find a shared love for God as a common theme in all of these stories about friends. David and Jonathan shared a love for God more than they loved their own families, Daniel and his friends shared a love for God more than they loved their own lives, Jesus and his friends shared a love for God more than they loved anything else in the world, Paul and Silas shared a love for God more than they loved their freedom.
Jesus followers don't look for Toy Story kind of friends. We find friends who fit the definition that Jesus gave us. Here's what Jesus said a friend is, "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me." John 15:12-15
There's two things here that grab my attention when I want to define what a close friend is to me.
The first one is that my closest friends will love me as Jesus loves them.
Jesus said, "Love each other the same way I have loved you." Only those who have genuinely given their life to Jesus know what love really is. The Bible defines love: "This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." 1 John 4:10
Jesus said that your closest friends should love as He loves. We have a purpose. That purpose is to love people like Jesus loves, to serve people like Jesus serves. We are to be like Jesus in this world so that others will see who He is and want to follow Him too. And our closest friends walk beside us as we live as followers of Jesus because they love Jesus as Jesus loves them.
Even though many in our world will choose not to live this way, we are not the judge, or the jury to determine who is worthy of God’s love, who is worthy of Salvation, we are simply called to love and serve like Jesus in the world, and allow God to be the judge of His creation. I make friends with people who don't know Jesus so that I can love them and bless them in Jesus name, but, my closest friends, my inner circle is reserved for those who will encourage me to live out my faith in Jesus because they love God, too. My closest friends love me as Jesus loves them.