John 15:14-16 (NIV) You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
During lunch at mall in the busy food court, my daughters and I looked for a table in the crush. When one opened – each one pushing the other to go sit down before it was gone. In the midst of trying to decide what to eat – which always ends up to be Chick-fil-A – what to order and if anyone had rewards, meanwhile who would sit with the hungry toddler. As I approached the line, I saw a familiar face. Making eye contact with the tall young man who stood head and shoulders above everyone else in the Chinese buffet line, I said, “Hello” and waved. I thought that he also acknowledged me and began a distant communication until my daughter pointed out that he wasn’t talking to me but someone behind me. Slightly embarrassed, I tucked my head and got in line. Feeling a bit awkward, I replayed the scenario in my head over and over until I was convinced that he was speaking to me and I rudely disengaged. At church on Sunday, I approached the young couple and apologized for indeed they were speaking to me. How many times do awkward moments keep us from connecting to others? The enemy wants us to avoid each other. Not speak to one another. Live separate and safe lives. It is an attack on unity, community and Kingdom.
You are my friends if you do what I command.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Jesus points out that to those who desire a close relationship to be called His Friend those must take the time to do what He has commanded. Jesus didn’t outline a new set of commandments but simply added one. Love each other. Love each other like I love you. Love each other by laying down your life for one another. Crazy thing is that most of the time all that requires is to slow down, reach out and engage with other people. How many people live in residential communities belonging to the same homeowners association yet do not have a clue who their neighbors are? How many folks work in crowded office buildings in close contact with a multitude of strangers? Most everyone has more Facebook Friends than real face-to-face friendships today. Not the same….not the same at all.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
”Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”(Romans 13:8-9)
Servants are indebted to their master. They serve out of obligation not relationship. Friendship is a close and loving bond that produce loving, kind, supportive and encouraging gestures out of fondness and commitment to one another. We owe all the debt of love as Jesus commanded us to do so. In fact, the Lord was bold in communicating that if we live a life of loving our neighbor as our self then fulfilling of the other commandments is not a problem. It makes sense. However, such a life is contrary to the world and must be engaged in through the Kingdom to be successful. The enemy strives to disrupt unity, tear apart agreement, and destroy relationships. The crossover from servant to friend in our relationship with Jesus Christ is first in accepting Him as Savior and Lord. Then secondly learning by His Example to lay down our life to love others.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (or forgiveness), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Every fruit of the Spirit listed is necessary in developing and securing relationships. To experience productive and prospering lives in Jesus Christ requires relationship. First with God the Father through His Son. We must yoke our life to Jesus to successfully navigate all of life’s challenges. His Spirit must live and commune in us. Finally, we must love one another. It is non-negotiable. I have been very transparent. When I took over the ladies ministry of our church – I really did care for women. Or so I thought…it was my inability to engage in healthy relationships with them that caused me to build a wall around my heart. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good relationship with my birth mother due to addiction. I never really understood the dynamics and drama of being a female. Don’t get me wrong – I am thankful I am a woman and embrace femininity. However, I never really understood girls. The Lord called me to lead these women. I struggled for the first two years. I begged to be released. I quit a few times. However, this is part of my calling by God which I cannot abandon and reach fulfillment so I stuck it out. I have made some wonderful friends. The Lord is teaching me how to love people that I do not have much in common with. I was not put in this position for them necessarily but so that I could learn a valuable (sometimes awkward) lesson about women and relationships.
The fruit of the Spirit is not tangible. It is love, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of which are powerful resources in building and maintaining healthy and strong relationships. It is up to us to decide if we will answer the call of God and command of Jesus to love one another. No matter how uncomfortable, awkward, and messy it gets – there is a blessing for those who decide to engage in the process and wait for the harvest just like planting a garden of fresh vegetables. The fruit of your labor will bless you, your family, your community, your church, the Kingdom and most importantly your Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ. You are His Friend. He has created you to be a friend. It is time to get reacquainted with the most basic command that seems to cause us the most trouble – that is to love one another as Christ has loved us. This is how the world will know that we are His Disciples – by being a friend.