Friendship With God Is Its Own Reward

Taken from a Red Rock News Article (5/3/24)
Rev. Dona Johnson | Jan 21, 2024

When many of us think of Jesus, we don’t think of  him as having a friendship with us. Maybe because  we think of God as holy and untouchable. Or  maybe we think a friendship with God would be  way too informal and casual. Or maybe we have  attachment issues and find it hard to befriend God  as a heavenly Father. Wherever you are, in John  15:13-15, Jesus, with great love in his heart for his  disciples called them friends. “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. I do not call you servants any  longer, because the servant does not know what  the master is doing; but I have called you friends…”  

      Jesus goes one step further and affirms his  love for his disciples when he says, “I no longer call  you servants but I call you friends.” Jesus is  referring to servants who have no rights or access  into the presence and royal courts of their master.  Instead, Jesus declares the disciples as his friends.  It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t call  himself a friend to the disciples. They are friends of  his and not the other way around. Jesus lays out  that they are not on equal ground but subordinate  to him. What does this type of friendship look like?  In Jesus’ understanding of friendship it is distinct  from a modern western understanding of friends  as equals. There is no equity between Jesus and his  

friends and yet he dies for those who are  subordinate to him.  

Jesus understood all too well what laid ahead for  his disciples. And he wanted them to grow in love  for each other, a love that would sacrifice,  encourage and bind and unite through all the  struggles they would face. God chose them for this  specific time and place to take on his mission. They  did not choose God, nor did they choose their  mission. And it is the same with us. We always tend  to feel that the initiative is on us but it is not. Like  the disciples, Jesus chooses us, calls us friends,  appoints us with the responsibility of  

ambassadorship and gives us the task to bear  fruit—share the message of salvation with the  world. Friendship with Jesus is not divorced from  risks, responsibilities and obedience. The very  mission given the disciples, to preach the gospel  would bring them into collision with worldly mindsets and the religious powers of the day.  

      Sometimes it seems as if Christians are sent  out into the world to compete against one another,  or dispute one another or even quarrel with one  another. And many times this type of behavior  weakens the Church’s witness. But if Christ’s  Church remains obedient to the same mission Jesus  gave to his disciples, to proclaim the Easter  message of the death and resurrection of Jesus  Christ and while doing so are called to deeply love  one another, then that may mean dying to our  pride, it may mean reaching out and bridging  denominational boundaries in order to sustain the  apostolic banding together, abiding in Jesus’ love  and finding common ground.  

      It is both astounding and beyond belief,  that the God of the universe through Jesus would  call his followers friends, would want to die for  them and hold nothing back from them. God’s  friendship with his people brings great benefits and  God has a special interest in the welfare of his  people. Friendship with God is its own reward. Amen.