Urban Leadership Collective: Wanna Be My Friend?
Rich Perez is the pastor of Christ Crucified Fellowship in (Washington Heights) New York City.
I vividly remember those moments when my self-esteem was considerably influenced by who I was friends with. Despite the fact that I played it cool and never gave the impression of worry or concern, those moments were very real and likewise their effects. But if you can, think back with me on those moments when a classmate, a teammate or just some kid down the block asked you to do something in order to hang with him/her or just be their friend. What did they ask you? Was what they asked worth friendship with them? How does what they ask inform you about them and their heart?
In my experience, it was never good. I was never jumping at the opportunity to pull a really bad prank on another classmate or friend, nor was I eager to damage, even break something in my neighborhood. I was always hesitant. Although I had my share of delinquencies, I was always hesitant to do it. For some, the words “if you wanna be my friend you gotta…” haunt them, because they know that if it is attached to that friendship, it is something selfish. In John 15:14 we see Jesus do something similar. After walking with them for 3 years, Jesus is preparing to leave his disciples. As he shares with them about the Holy Spirit and his role in their daily living, he says something that sounds similar to that kid in your past: “You are my friend if you do what I command you.”
Well, let’s ask some of the same questions we did earlier. What is Jesus asking us to do? Is it worth a friendship with Jesus? How does what He ask inform us about Him and His heart? Lets start with the first question – what is Jesus asking us to do? Verse 12 gives us the answer. Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
There is significant depth to that word “love” in its original language. It means to hold in high regard; to care for deeply; a recognition that springs out from deep knowing. I can’t help but to think about my wife. There are several things that she likes and dislikes. Things she enjoys and things she’d rather not do. One of those things she dislikes is seeing the dishes undone. She just ain’t right when the dishes ain’t done! Wouldn’t be most loving for her husband to consider that about his wife and make sure the dishes get done before she’s home no matter how busy he is? (Most ladies reading this are probably shoutin’ and dancin’!). This is what Jesus is asking us to do. Not merely washing each other’s dishes, but to highly regard one another; a regard that comes from deep, intimate investment in each other.
Here’s the substance to this kind of love – “…as I have loved you.” How has Jesus loved us? Verse 9 tells us that Jesus has loved us in the same way the Father has loved Him. Verse 13 pries a bit more – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Christ displayed his love for us ultimately in that He died for us not as friends, but as enemies. We deny, reject, oppose, and hate Him, yet He died in our place. What does this mean? It means that in order to love as Christ loved we must love sacrificially and love in light of Him. When we think about the most selfless deed we’ve ever committed, its there not to bring praise to your name (because then it would be essentially selfish), but rather, its there to point back to the one who did it first, that He would get the praise!
Secondly, is this worth a friendship with Jesus? Absolutely! Here’s why: in verse 10, Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Our life experiences will tell us that there is nothing more valuable than time well spent. In our 9-year relationship, I’ve truly enjoyed all the gifts my wife has given me, but none have been greater than the gift of herself. I will choose time with her over any material gift any and every time. Jesus offers himself – loving and fruitful relationship with the God you’ve heard of, wondered about, and sought after. And as much as we think that things other than this are more satisfying, they’re temporary and only fill the tank up half way, if that.
Jesus follows verse 10 and says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” What brings joy to Jesus, He now deposits in us in a way that fills us to the brim. Have any of you ever had all of your immediate needs met? You know, your bills are paid; your stomachs are full; you’re warm at night, you’re family is healthy? You even have several luxuries like TV and dinners out. How do we function when you have everything you need? We usually function without setting conditions. We set conditions because we think selfishly in order to see gain because we have a need. But if in Jesus we possess everything – identity, security, hope and love, we would be able to love as Jesus loves (without conditions). The good news of Jesus’ free gift of life free’s us to love whether it is reciprocated or not because all the love we need we have – in Jesus! We announce to the world that this free gift of Jesus has been received by us when we love this way.
Lastly, What does this tell us about Jesus? It tells us that in His demonstration of love for us, he chose us. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” Jesus is talking to the disciples in this particular instance, but there is a broader lens to this text that brings us in view. The longevity of this relationship with Jesus hinges on Him – and He’s faithful! I pray that as we see Jesus, his person and work, we would be opened; we would receive and be transformed. Driven by the Holy Spirit, the gospel of Jesus is power to save us from the inability to love this way to a life that can. You can follow Rich on Twitter @RichPerez729