You've got a friend in me
One of the key principles that our church works on is friendship. We believe that friendship is an essential part of who we are at Ebenezer and we think it important that, no matter who you are, you can find friendship amongst our community.
Lets take a look at what the Bible says about friendship and why it's so important.
John 15:12-13 (NIV)
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
These verses start with 'My command is this'. This highlights to us that what is to follow is an essential part of our Christian life, this command is also for each and every person. It's not a command directed towards an individual but the Church as a collective. When we look at the original Greek word for command we find the word 'entole' (pronounced: en-tol-ay) which is described in Strongs Concordance as 'an injunction that is an authoritative prescription'. From this we can see that this is an assertion of authority from Jesus and therefore we should pay close attention.
The next part of this scripture goes on to say 'Love each other as I have loved you.'. Our love for one another should be a reflection of Jesus' love for us. Jesus' life is the ultimate example of how we should treat one another and how we should love one another. We can often look at those around us and aspire to adopt the qualities that they show, and this isn't always a bad thing, we can learn from one another and help each other to grow.
Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
This scripture in Proverbs teaches us that we can 'sharpen' one another. But one of the caveats of sharpening one another is that we are helping each other to become more like Christ, not shaping people in to what or who we think they should be. Jesus commands that we love each other as he loved and still does love us, so we must remain grounded in that command in our friendships and relationships.
The final part of this passage that I want to look at today says 'Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends'. To put what Jesus is saying in context here, he is with the disciples in the upper room and they have already shared the last supper. Jesus is telling the disciples and us this truth, knowing that He is going to be fulfilling it. He is placing an emphasis on love all throughout this chapter, if you read the verses before and after this you will find that the word 'love' is littered throughout them. Jesus was set on making sure that we understood the importance of love in the context of friendship, part of the way He is doing that is by speaking these words to His friends. We don't have to literally lay down our lives in order to follow this command. What Jesus is teaching us here is to be selfless and to put others before ourselves. In our world the focus is often on competition, who can get the best exam results, who made the most sales this week, who's got the biggest house or the nicest car and this competitive nature is often seen more than ever amongst friends. You have to keep us with Joneses right?
We should strive to sharpen one another, to build one another up and to live in unity rather than rivalry. The way we do that is drawing on the love of Christ and letting that be the leading force in our friendships. There is a really cliché phrase: What would Jesus do? Although this phrase has probably been bounded around millions of times, it still holds so much value. If what we are doing in our friendships doesn't match up with what Jesus would do, then I guess we are doing it wrong, and maybe we need to examine what Jesus would do and apply that to our lives.
I pray that you will know the love and friendship of Jesus and that His love might run throughout your friendships and relationships to form strong and healthy bonds.