“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me (John 15:13-15).”
We were ready to sit down to dinner on Easter Sunday. My brother Mark and his wife Christine were awaiting the arrival of some close friends whom they were hosting, along with me.
The couple and their daughter came in and there was this joyous reunion. Then something surprising happened.
The guest wife and mother came over and gave me a big hug.
Later, I commented to Christine about this event. I told her that it was amazing that this woman who didn’t even know me would come over and give me a warm greeting like that.
Christine replied,”Your Mark’s brother. That’s all that matters.”
I learned a big lesson at that moment. I knew intellectually that when God the Father viewed me, He saw me as Jesus’s brother.
However, in that couple seconds when I was being hugged by this lady, I experienced what that meant. I was valuable to her because of my relationship with Mark. She joyfully embraced me because I was connected to him in a close way, and this gave me value in her eyes.
I thus gained an understanding of how valuable I am to God the Father. I am an adopted son, the brother of Jesus, His beloved.
While Mark is my brother, an official, legal status that in our case is based on having the same mother and father and the same genetics and blood, he is also my friend.
I think of how my parent’s viewed my close friends when I was growing up. They were always welcome at our house.
My friends were important to my parents because they were important to me. I had a tight relationship with those boys, and that gave them worth in my parent’s eyes.
God the Father not only sees me as Jesus’s brother, but also as His friend. Therefore, I have double the value to Him.
The wise man of Proverbs gives us some idea as to what it means to have a close friend in his writings in the book’s 27th chapter.
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume (v. 9). Furthermore, a true friend will never abandon you, even when disaster strikes. In fact, it is better to ask a nearby friend for help at such times than to run to a brother far away (v. 10).
Finally, Proverbs 27 tells us that two friends will sharpen each other, as two pieces of iron give each other a fine edge (v. 17).
A good friend’s heart-to-heart is like a sword which can pierce through all the muck in my soul and spirit and help me get to the heart of the matter. The Word of God has the same function, although it is infallible and my friends definitely are not! (Hebrews 4:12)
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson has gone down in history as one of the top military leaders in American history. Jackson was known not only for his prowess as a soldier, but also for his complete dedication to God.
He once said,”We are all children of suffering and sorrow in this world. Amid affliction, let us hope for happiness. However dark the night, I am cheered with an anticipated glorious and luminous morrow. No earthly calamity can shake my hope in the future so long as God is my friend.”
Jackson was tested on this statement when his young wife and first child died in childbirth. He said at the time,”I do not see the purpose of God in this, the most bitter, trying affliction of my life, but I will try to be submissive though it breaks my heart.”*
How do we know these words? He said them to a friend.
Stonewall Jackson hit on something here. He understood the nature of friendship with God.
Jesus wants to be my friend. However, being Jesus’s pal has requirements not seen in most close friendships.
My buddies don’t expect to have to do what I tell them to do to keep my friendship. Likewise, I would be shocked if one of them thought I would obey their orders as a private would an officer.
A friendship with Jesus, on the other hand, comes with the understanding that I will obey Him. It’s taken me a whole lifetime to get this.
Jesus doesn’t confide in everyone. He only divulges his secrets to His friends.
I’ve always struggled with having to obey anyone, God included. Having a tight, transparent friendship with the Lord of the Universe is worth it the blind obedience it takes to get it, though.
* The life of Stonewall Jackson is eloquently written about in James I. Robertson’s work “Stonewall Jackson: The man, the soldier, the legend.”