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John 15: 13                     NIV

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Jesus demonstrated true friendship. He also defined friendship in some meaningful ways. Proverb 18: 24 says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Surely, Jesus has modeled this kind of friendship for us and, he has become this kind of friend to us. In truth, isn’t he just the best friend you have ever had?

This verse certainly brings joy and a sense of celebration to the heart but I feel snagged by it also. If a real friend is one who would lay down one’s life for a friend, then it stands to reason that we would lay down a great many other things, as well, for our friends. The most costly of these is that I may have to lay aside my agenda, my wishes and my time for my friends.

We live in an age where we are all so busy that, really, we don’t have much time for our friends. We end up with virtual friends instead of real friends. I even wonder if the word “friend” means what it used to. Perhaps most of our friends are really acquaintances. I remember, as a child, my parents having friends over to play cards. Sometimes we went over to other friends of theirs and sat and sang songs all evening. We also took weekends to go visit relatives. We don’t do many of those things today. If, as the God’s Word translation says, “The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends” how do we demonstrate our love and affection for anyone? Or have we stopped caring altogether? Our heartstrings are pulled by the affliction of people who suffer around the world, we give money to groups who rescue abused and neglected animals but where is the real devotion in personal relationships? Are we only dedicated to those whom we can keep at arm’s length. Are my very best friends those on Facebook whom I never see and haven’t seen in years? Or like one person I know, who never intends or desires to see her Facebook friends in person, are many of us learning to isolate ourselves living as islands of one or two? What does it even mean anymore to have “meaningful” relationships? Do you sometimes wonder who would care if you dropped dead?

I think of the people who followed Jesus. They truly loved him. He loved them with all that he had. He loves you and I with all that he ever was and willingly sacrificed his life so that we could be best friends. Are we treating him as a long-distance relationship? What would it be like, how would it feel to treat him as an intimate friend? And what is a friend anyway? He showed us ultimate friendship in laying down his life for us, but what shall I now do, how shall I express my love for him? How does a real, true friendship with Jesus demonstrate itself? And is my relationship with him based solely on what he does for me? What can I do for him or any friend? Perhaps it is not about what you do though. Maybe it is just about being with them.

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus is one. Is there another?

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