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A Friendship with Jesus

Friendship and Grace

A Friendship with Jesus
Wednesday, April 14, 2021

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:13–14)

When we treat Jesus as a friend, it’s easy to focus on how the relationship benefits us and relieves our burdens, but Professor Dana L. Robert reminds us that there is more to friendship with Jesus than the blessings we receive. Knowing Jesus as a friend is a source of strength that impacts all our relationships in community and society. She writes:

Knowing Jesus is a relationship so intimate that he carries his followers’ burdens. He brings them joy. He walks beside them. In short, Jesus befriends those who follow him. And friendship with Jesus builds Christian community across cultural, social, and ethnic divisions. . . .

In 1993, the Reverend Dr. Margaret Moshoeshoe Montjane was an Anglican chaplain at the huge Baragwanath Hospital in the South African township of Soweto. She was a former student of mine, and I was scheduled to go visit her. Then on April 10, a right-wing nationalist murdered the head of the South African Communist Party, Chris Hani, in his driveway. Immediately riots broke out throughout the country, especially in Soweto. South Africa was a powder keg, and Nelson Mandela could barely keep the lid on. Angry young men surged into Baragwanath Hospital with their injured comrades. Margaret used all her authority to avert rioting in the hospital, ordering the rioters to sit down and treat the hospital with respect. When we spoke on the phone before my scheduled visit, I asked her how she was managing. She answered, “Without Jesus, I couldn’t get through the day.”. . . [Her friendship with Jesus helped her support the community through crisis.]

In most cultures, the idea of friendship is a powerful statement of relational identity. In Batak culture in Indonesia, for example, it is said that the loss of a friend is worse than the loss of one’s mother. Traditional Russian culture assumes it is better to have many friends than much money. In Confucian tradition, friendship is one of the basic relationships that undergirds society. For American Christians, being friends with Jesus tends to be personal. . . . Jesus is my friend. He carries my burdens.

But a cross-cultural perspective on Jesus as friend says a lot about the meaning of community. For friendship always goes both ways. It requires mutuality. It involves give and take. . . . Since Jesus is holding hands with the world, so to speak, then intimacy with Jesus extends far beyond personal needs. To befriend Jesus means carrying in fellowship the responsibilities of friendship that he carried. . . .

In the context of worldwide community, being friends with Jesus is hard work. For when followers of Jesus walk beside him, he leads them in directions they would rather not go, into neighborhoods they would rather avoid, and to meet other friends of his they might not normally know. As the Scriptures and history show, to be a friend of Jesus means loving others just as he does.

Reference:
Dana L. Robert, Faithful Friendships: Embracing Diversity in Christian Community (Eerdmans: 2019), 9, 10–11, 12.

Story from Our Community:
Fr. Richard’s meditations living ‘on the edge of the inside’ mention people who don’t watch TV, have a daily prayer life, who put themselves in risky situations—he is describing me! I love St. Francis and St. Clare but have never considered how my choices are, in a small way, similar to theirs. Thank you, Richard, for affirmation of my life choices. —Diane P.

Image credit: Suzanne Szasz, Taking a Close Look at Nature at High Rock Park in Staten Island (detail), 1973, photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Friends of all kinds surround and hold us.
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