by Judy Allen
My brother was having difficulty making friends in a new high school after a move halfway across the country. I was puzzled, because he’s a great guy, but in this particular school it wasn’t happening. My mother, always praying, woke him up one night to say that she had been asking the Lord for the wrong thing. She had been praying for him to have friends, but she realized that she should be praying for him to be a friend. Frankly, I don’t know if he ever developed good friendships at that school, but my mom’s insight stuck with me.
Most of us desire to have good friends, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t always think about being a good friend.
There have been times in my life when good friends have been a tremendous blessing. When I had cancer, friends spoke encouraging words, made meals, sent cards and gifts, offered help, and prayed for me. I am forever grateful. When I had a stroke, most of my friends were just as shocked as I was, and I recovered very quickly, but I remember that one of my friends came to the hospital to visit me. That was meaningful.
Even in the not-so-dramatic days of life, good friends are invaluable. Sometimes a friend can speak a kind word or extend an invitation, and it makes a world of difference. Recently, we invited some friends over for dinner, and my friend, who had been having a difficult day, told me that our invitation felt like a God-given gift. We had no idea.
The Bible has quite a bit to say about friendship. Abraham is called a friend of God and God spoke to Moses as one speaks to a friend. Job had three friends who for seven days were good friends sitting with him in his misery, but then they decided to give some corrective advice. Things went downhill. Proverbs gives some specific truths about friends, both positive and negative, that are interesting to ponder. David and Jonathan are perhaps the most well-known biblical example of a remarkable friendship. In the New Testament, Paul had several good friends and Priscilla and Aquilla, who risked their lives for Paul, were prominent. Of course, Jesus had good friends in Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus called us his friends.
When I think of Jesus as my friend, I’m stunned by the privileges that my friend, creator of the universe, offers me. It’s natural for that to be our first thought when we think about Jesus as a friend, but I don’t often take it to the logical next step. How do we reciprocate? How can we be good friends to Jesus?
Jesus sets a high standard. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” (John 15:13). He described friendship as love and self-sacrifice to the point of giving up one’s life, and then he showed exactly what that means. In the context of friendship, it’s interesting to remember that he also told us to take up our crosses and follow him.
Jesus is my Savior, my Lord, and leader, and he’s so far beyond me that it’s difficult to think of him as a friend. What can he possibly want from me?
Thankfully, he told us. “You are my friends if you do what I command,” Jesus said in John 15:14, which is a bit easier to get our heads around than giving our lives for a friend. We can be a friend to Jesus if we obey him. It sounds simple, but it’s not. If you’re wondering what Jesus commands, he tells us. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) So, if we love each other like Jesus loves us, we are obeying him and if we’re obeying him, we are his friends.
My husband and I watched a movie recently called Our Friend, and it was about a good friend who’s actions went far beyond what most people would think was reasonable. The movie gives no indication that the characters are Christians, but it is a powerful demonstration of the selfless love of a good friend. It’s based on a true story, and you’ll need a tissue or two, but I recommend the movie.
I confess that sometimes I love my time, money, agenda, or comfort more than I love my friends. Occasionally, I get it right. I want to love God and love others more than myself, and the only way to do that consistently is to depend on Jesus; to follow him well.
It all comes back to love. The greatest commandments are to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we are good friends to others, showing love and self-sacrifice, we are being good friends to them and to Jesus.
It seems rather obvious as I write this: Love God; love others; be a good friend.
Judy Allen is an Area Director with Community Bible Study, and she also writes and speaks with the goal of making the transformative truth of Jesus Christ more impactful in our daily lives. She blogs at connectingdotstogod.com and lives in the Chicago area with her husband and best friend, Dan.