When we study the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles, we note rather quickly that the apostles did not always get along. They disagreed. They contended for favor. They mocked and grew frustrated with each other. Yeshua knew that in His absence, they could potentially divide what He had united.
In John 15:17 we read, “These things I command you, so that you may love one another.”
We don’t often realize it, but the human – from our earliest stages of development – must be taught, reminded and corrected about how to treat the human other. When your children were young, do you recall telling them to “be nice,” or “share”? What you were actually doing was teaching them how to be a friend.
Messiah, in John 15:17, is laying a foundation of friendship among those who will carry His message to the world; a world that will not be a friend to them, in fact, it will hate them (Jn. 15:18-19; cf. Jas. 4:4). His foundation allowed for the dynamic of human relationships.
The human heart longs for friendship; it is, after all, consistent with our design, having been created in the “image and likeness” of the Godhead dwelling in perfect communion.
The Scriptures have much to say about the nature of friendship:
The wounds of a friend are faithful (Prov. 27:6). Their counsel is sweetness (Prov. 27:9). A friend sharpens our countenance (Prov. 27:17). “A man with many friends may be harmed by them, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).
Unlike the family we are born into, friendship is a choice. Remember the words of Messiah, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (Jn. 15:16). The beauty of this choice is that He chose us with our imperfections. He didn’t wait for us to be: perfect, totally reformed, well-dressed, well-mannered, agreeable. He chose us as we were; and by communion with Him, He changes and ultimately perfects us (Ro. 8:28-29).
Messiah was mocked for the friendships He kept, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds” (Matt. 11:19). Why would Messiah be a friend to tax collectors and sinners? Why did He desire to be a friend to you?
Let’s consider some Hebrew words that are translated “friend” in order to gain a broader perspective on friendship.
1. רע, from “see,” rendered as neighbor, companion and friend.
2. חבר, fellowship, friendship, to be knit together.
3. אהב, love, friend.
4. ידיד, friend.
So a friend is someone you see, spend time with, have affection for, and with whom you share kindness, even stress.
While חבר reveals to us how the lives of friends are “knit together” like a tapestry, the final word that I shared above explains how that is accomplished. ידיד, simply means “friend,” however it is formed by combining two words that create a beautiful visual.
יד + יד = ידיד, (yad + yad); יד means “hand,” so the picture of friends are those living “hand in hand.”
I appreciate what Tim Keller writes about friendship, “Friendship is a deep oneness that develops when two people, speaking the truth in love to one another, journey together to the same horizon.”
The Basis of Friendship is:
1. Covenant – with the Lord and others. Part of the stipulations of covenant with the Lord is that we will reach out our hand, see above, to neighbors, strangers, brothers, tax collectors and sinners, etc.
2. Time and Consistency.
3. Connectedness and Presence.
4. Sacrificial (Jn. 15:13) and Careful.
5. Honesty – truth in love.
In messianic faith, our friendships are an outgrowth of the friendship we have with Yeshua. What did Yeshua say? “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (Jn. 15:14). This is a conditional statement. We must do what He has commanded: love one another; love the stranger, neighbor, enemy; do to others what you would have them do to you (Matt. 7:12).
He is the covenant Lord. It may sound strange to our ears, but He has the authority to set conditions of our friendship/relationship with Him. Friendship with Yeshua is only possible because of His redemptive work on the Cross that has torn the curtain blocking intimacy with God. The grace of forgiveness begins, maintains and keeps His friendship with us, and others.
Yet, Yeshua was able to share friendship with sinners because of His intimacy with the Father. Communion with Yeshua is the avenue by which we develop friendships and relationships with the lost, and ultimately fulfill our calling in His commission (Matt. 28:18-20), without relaxing our grip on His hand, or His grip on ours.
Be well. Shalom.