When You Are Among Friends

Are Your Friendships Fragile?

Click Here For Audio of  talk given September 2, 2012 You Are Among Friends

How many friends do you have?  No really, how many friends do you have?  No I am not talking about all of your so called friends on facebook.  I’m talking about the people you can actually pick up the phone and call.  I mean the people who actually hope the best for you and hold a space for your growth and expansion in their world.  I’m talking about people that you can fart in front of and they do not start judging you like they don’t fart too.  I’m talking about people who will tell you the truth even if it means that you might get angry with them, but will still forgive you when you get in your right mind and start realizing that life is not a TV show where everything works out in one episode.  I am talking about someone who will lay down their lives for you.

Now, I will venture to say that given that criteria, if most of us are honest, we will have to admit that we don’t have very many friends.  There are people we know.  There are people we have things in common with.  There are people that we can go out and have fun with.  There are people we network with.  There are people that we are dependent on.  But most of us do not have friends.  And in my summation, that is because most of us don’t know how to be friends.  Being a friend is no small task and if you look at it without the reality TV, sitcom, and soap opera idea of what friendship is, you see that true friendship is actually counter-cultural in our society, because friends tell the truth.  They are not trying to impress anyone, they are not trying to project an image so that they can be seen a certain way.  Friends just are who they are and they invite us to be us in all of our flaws, failures, and humanity.

One of my favorite scenes from the Matthean account of Jesus is when some Pharisees were trying to trip Jesus up so they could make some accusations against him.  They came up trying to flatter him with the hopes of catching him in treason. They said to him:

“Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matt 22:16,17)

What I like about that scene is that they try to use the truth to trap Jesus.  They acknowledge that he tells the truth, but most importantly, they point out that he does not care about anyone and is no respecter of people.  See to me, you cannot tell the truth and care about what people think or their status in society or whatever.  The fact is, if you care what someone thinks, then you are going to tell them what they want to hear, which may not always be the truth.

Now am I saying that we should all go about just telling people whatever without any consideration for how they may take it or how they may react to it?  No not at all.  If you are familiar with this scene, then you know that Jesus came up with a clever answer for those people that did not compromise his integrity.  But keep in mind that he was wise enough to know that they were not really his friends.  See a lot of us want to be seen as all perfect and wonderful in the eyes of everyone that we will fall for some stupid flattery and not even know we are getting set up.  Next thing you know we’re crying somewhere saying, “I can’t believe they did me like this.”  We believe it, because it was done.  And it will keep happening until we stop being concerned with having friends and work on  being friends.

Have you ever heard that saying, “You have a friend in Jesus?”  Well, over the summer I dug really deeply into John 15:9-17 to get a real sense of what that means.  Check out the passage below.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another.

I found that the revelation of Christ’s love in these verses is nearly incomprehensible in modern times in that it somehow influences an undetermined present from a realized future.  What I mean by that, is that most of make our decisions of how we engage with the world based on what we consider to be a definite past.  In that line of thinking, our present and consequently our future is determined by what was already happened. However, Christ lived out of a certainty of the future.  As a result his present was always toward that and he consequently transformed the past.  By choosing the disciples and their spiritual descendants to be his friends, the Cross becomes a fulfilled promise of unconditional love for humanity.  Jesus trusted in God so much that he laid down his life for who he knew we would become through hearing the Word of Truth*, not for who we are or who we have been.  Christ has made us the guarantee and paid our wages before we’ve even done the work.  This is the type of friendship and faith Jesus has for us and in us.

Now I know that some of us are programmed to feel guilty at the thought that Jesus laid down his life for us.  How about letting that go?  Jesus does not play games and did not do anything to make us feel guilty.  He only wants us to realize the joy that made it easy for him to lay down his life.  Our feelings of guilt and shame come our own inner knowing that we are full of it most of the time and live our lives chasing carrots and running from our fears.  Friends don’t let us settle for that when we know we can be more.  Jesus knows we are more.

I know that when I was younger, I thought that the only way that I could live out the fullness of the above verses was for me to literally die for my friends.  And I venture to think that a lot of people who read this verse would take it the same way given that that is what Jesus did.  However, I have come to see it differently.    For one thing, I realize that whenever we make a choice for love we are laying down our lives for our friends.  Let’s face it, there are influential people in the world who believe that Oneness is bad for business.  So they invest a lot of time, energy, and other resources to keep us from loving one another in this world.  Do you think there would be wars if we all loved one another?  Do you think there would be a single person that goes to bed hungry if we all loved one another? Do you think there would career politicians who choose corporate agendas over community ones? I don’t.

Truly loving someone, anyone, anything, is no small deal in this world, because love in this world is already going against the grain, because it asks you to go out of your way for a friend out of pure kindness and with no obligation. It asks you to take the risk of being unpopular if that is where the greatest kindness is.  It asks you to give to those who cannot repay you.  And yes, it asks you to not make death an excuse for not living in truth.  So to a world where the prime directive is to make choices primarily based on their WIIFM factor (What’s In It For Me?) love for love’s sake is quite insane.  So if you can think of one person in your life who has done a kindness for you without obligation, it is reason enough to say thank you, because in that moment they have laid down their life for you.

*Truth is not to be confused with religious dogma, popular opinions and interpretations, traditions, or anything I say here.  The truth is written on our hearts (Hebrews 8).

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