So it’s been some time since I last dipped my toe into this wonderful world of blogging but thought to myself recently after meeting up with some friends to put something together regarding friendship; both friendship with others and the specifically the friendship offered to us by Jesus.
It says it in John’s Gospel “you did not choose me, no I chose you” (Jn 15:15). Well then we are already well past our first step. Jesus has already chosen us! So, the question then, is what is our first step?
The first step towards friendship must surely be to think like a friend. Let me ask you to consider for a moment,what are the characteristics of friendship? Not what makes a friend, but what do you need for friendship?
You’ve maybe thought or indeed written down some of the things we love about friendship. And when you begin to have friendship in mind, you begin to have friendship in life. When you begin to show an interest in other people’s needs, and feelings, you begin to build a friendship with them. It all sounds so simple and silly, but it can be a lot more difficult than we think. If you read any of the Gospels and read the stories of Jesus, you will see how people came to Him…it always began with a personal invitation from Him. They saw that he was interested in them, desired their friendship and they came to Him. You know the way the planets in our solar system all revolve around the sun? Sometimes we can think we are the sun and think that everything has to be centred on us. Now, it’s only natural to want to be noticed, to be heard, to be loved. But when our only concern is for ourselves, naturally we forget about others. So we begin by thinking like a friend.
Next comes actually behaving like a friend. Let me ask, did Jesus behave like a friend? To total strangers? Of course he did. There are two stories here which show Jesus acting like a friend. The first is in Mark’s Gospel, where he encounters a leper (Mk 1:40 -45), and the leper approaches Jesus and says to him “Sir, if you want to, you can cure me”. And Jesus responds “Of course I want to…” its almost as though He were saying to the leper “My friend, why would I not want to cure you?” He cures him and tells the man “mind you say nothing to anyone”. Why does Jesus said this? Was it because he didn’t want the Pharisees to know about the work he was doing? Or was it because knowing the man was well was enough for him? You see, we must behave like friends. Our actions must be for the good of those around us. Next, we must feel like a friend. What do I mean by that? Well, what we have to do is to be able to express our own friendship to others.
For me this is illustrated most beautifully in John’s Gospel where we read:
On the following day as John stood there again with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ’where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour. One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.
However there is another way of illustrating this Christian friendship:
Jesus the Friend and the Lord of the Rings:
Is friendship easy? Is it easy to be friends with someone? I love movies. I love taking a movie, and picking it apart and seeing all the different things that are going on with it. There’s a really great movie about friendship…and it’s the Lord of the Rings trilogy, specifically The Return of the King. Throughout the trilogy we see the fellowship of the ring accompany Frodo on his way to Mordor to destroy the Ring. Along the way they get separated, but even in their separation their priority is to help Frodo in whatever way they can. But who is the true symbol of enduring friendship in this series of films? For me it is Sam. Samwise the Brave as he is called. Now towards the end of Return of the King, Frodo and Sam have made it into Mordor and they have braved danger countless times. Frodo sees his goal, and collapses under the weight of the Ring. Sam reminds Frodo about the great things in their home, such as the taste of strawberries, and the orchard being in blossom, but Frodo cannot remember any of these things. All he knows now is the Ring, and the weight of it. How does Sam respond? “Then let us be rid of it! I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!” and then we cut to Aragorn, Gandalf and the battle against the armies of Sauron. Aragorn shouts the war cry followed by the others “For Frodo!”…these scenes show friendship in two very crucial ways. First off there’s Sam who has followed Frodo through the entire saga, and finally at the end, Frodo cannot go on, it’s too much for him, and Sam carries him because he knows how important the destruction of the Ring is, not just for Middle Earth but for his friend. Imagine the cost of destroying the Ring and losing your best friend! Secondly, we see Aragorn and the armies of Middle Earth charging on Mordor, now do they acclaim “For Middle Earth!”? Do they acclaim “For the destruction of the Ring!”? No…it’s for Frodo. Frodo has fought the battle up to now, he has carried the Ring (which was effectively the most difficult thing to do) and now he needs his friends to help. Was it easy to be a friend of Frodo? Like would it be easy to be friends with someone who may need you to die in battle for them at any given moment? Course not! But that’s the way it is with real friendship. It will not be easy; in fact it will be incredibly difficult at times. But we stand there with each other, together. In the end that’s all we have…each other. So treat your friends with loyalty. What we give to others is brought back to us in return. Does Sam carrying Jesus remind you of anyone? What about Simon of Cyrene? Simon couldn’t carry the cross for Jesus, but he could support him as he carried it to Golgotha…we need to support our friends in the good times, but also in the tough times.