Pastor’s Thoughts: WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS – By Bob Stuckey, Salem Mennonite Church

When our daughter was in first grade, she spent many hours making friendship bracelets. These were brightly colored threads braided together with tender loving care and then given to her friends at school. Her friends would then wear these bracelets as symbol of the bond of friendship between them. It was very important for our daughter at that age to have her friends wear a visible sign of their friendship.

The power of friendship is very compelling. Most commercials for alcoholic beverages dwell upon the idea of “good times of good friends” getting together and using their products.

The reality of the world we live in is that true friendship is a very scarce commodity. In a recent Gallup poll more than 25% of Americans admitted they do not have a close friend or anyone they are comfortable sharing their innermost thoughts with. It is the loneliest feeling in the world to not have a friend.

Why is friendship so important? Because it is an expression of love, and everyone is born with an innate need to love and be loved. Having a true friend is one of our deepest needs.

A true friend knows everything about you and loves you anyway.

Jesus is our sacred friend. Jesus is someone who has the spiritual fortitude to confront our sinfulness without shrinking back in disgust. He is someone who will tolerate our fits of anger when we cannot have our own way. He is a friend who, despite being so much greater, lets us in on the secrets of the heavenly kingdom. That is why John 15:15 is so important for us today. Jesus says to his disciples, “I have called you my friends, and everything I have learned from my Father, I have made known unto you”.

Friends know things about each other. Jesus has made known everything we need to know about God and reaches out to each one of us, longing for our friendship.

In John 15:13, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this—that one lays down his life for his friends”. That is precisely what Jesus did for us.

In this sacred bond of friendship, the majestic Jesus becomes one of us. He loses neither honor nor status but humbly hides it from full view.  This sacred, divine, kingly God-man is also my friend, a partner and a guide in this troublesome life. He wants to share his life with me, and desires mine in return. There is not a more remarkable and intimate friendship anywhere.

This idea of friendship with God focuses on the person of Jesus. God is powerful and holy, but so often seems very distant from us.  Jesus became human like one of us, but it is still hard to imagine that God would have any interest in someone like me. Yet friendship with you and me is God’s idea, not ours. God makes the first move. God takes the first steps and God keeps pressing towards us.

The three main ingredients for any friendship to grow and mature are:

  • proximity or nearness
  • mutual liking
  • self-disclosure.

God through Jesus has already done his part in all of these basic conditions for friendship to be nurtured. Now it is up to us. Unless we do our part, our friendship with God through Jesus will never get off the ground.

Best friends spend time with each other. Best friends share life’s ups and downs together. Best friends comfort each other in times of sorrow and disappointment. Best friends celebrate each other’s accomplishments as if they were their own. Best friends create a history together with the stories of their lives interwoven forever.

When Jesus becomes our best friend—he captivates us with his teaching, embraces us with his love, and overwhelms us with his grace.

It is one thing to study Jesus, to pray to him only when in trouble, and occasionally worship him. It is a much deeper thing to consistently be in the company of Jesus as we continue his work in our world.

Jesus wants to call us his friends, and wants to enjoy companionship with us each day.

Our world measures success and values a person by what he or she can produce, or by financial net worth accumulated.

Jesus has a different set of values. Your life will be a resounding success if Jesus says about you, “I have called you my FRIEND.

And that, my friends, is the most valuable goal you can have in this new year of 2013.

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