Friendship – a Principle

Jonathan and David may be the most famous of all the friends in the Bible. However, the greatest friend found in the Bible is the Great Friend – our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Our survey into friendship will continually return to our great, perfect example found in Jesus.

Jesus’ teachings impacting friendship starts with him pointing us back to Deuteronomy 6.4, commonly known as the shema, and then he goes to Leviticus 19.1, which is given as the opposite of the extended discussion found in the Pentateuch on “Thou shall not kill.” He teaches in Mark 12.29-31 that the greatest commandment … “is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Since a friend is someone who belongs to our most trustworthy and intimate circles, it should go without saying that being a friend includes – at minimum – the same acts of love that we would give to a stranger. Jesus makes clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 that all people are our neighbors.

Jesus doesn’t leave us with some vague notion of love. He knows if our aspirations are going to be successful then we need to be shown exactly what love is – especially when it comes to loving other people. He is not only the most excellent teacher, but he is also the greatest exemplar! He who came to serve, not be served, is he who created all of creation. Find the most excellent person to ever exist and contrast that person with the most disgusting, despicable person ever to exist. Then have the most excellent person at the summoning of the despicable person and you will have slightly nudged your big toe onto the path of absurdity that is God coming down and serving His rebellious creation. Matthew 20:26-28 reads “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

So we come to the reigning principle of friendship. While other characteristics must be present to make a relationship a friendship, the primary motivator behind a friendship is a desire to serve someone other than yourself. It is part of our spiritual DNA as God’s creation. Deep within our being is a call to the wild and this call lays dormant in too many who have taken to chasing their tails. Our call to the wild is an adventure of serving and service. It is the opposite of being tame or timid. It is daring – willing to surrender yourself for and to another for the sake of the other person. It has no safety latches, seat belts, or nets. Instead it offers vulnerability, transparency, honesty, truth and real love.

Doubt that this is the case? Doubt that friendship begins with love through service? Consider Paul’s words in Galatians 5:13-14 “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'”

The two, service and love, are intricately woven. Expecting a cataclysmic illumination? Expecting some other insight than love and service? Are they too mundane for you? How many friendships have been bashed on the cliffs of calculations. When we lose sight of this overarching theme in our relationships we become counters of “what does John bring to the relationship?” He brings himself and it should be enough.

Reality check – friendship, for a Christian, absolutely requires ministry. That is the very point of service as Jesus states it. Sometimes you are doing the ministry and sometimes you are the recipient of the ministry. Friends are not meant for our entertainment or our convenience. Our friends serve us by allowing us to lavish our love and support on them.

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