Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
What a sweet sentiment—having a friend who would lay down his or her life for us. Who wouldn’t want that? So, we use this verse to let our friends know how important they are to us. That’s beautiful and touching, but it’s not exactly what this verse tells us.
Jesus spoke these words. He really did lay down his life for us. And by “us,” I don’t mean just the people who hung out with him. Remember, Jesus tells us to love our neighbors and love our enemies. That’s the same love through which He laid down His life. He died while carrying the burden of our sins, because it’s a burden we couldn’t bear and overcome. He covered our sins, because we can’t actually cover them; we just have to deal with them if we try to do it on our own. His love is powerful. And he laid down His life.
There’s something else in this verse, and it’s what causes us to use it as a friendship commitment and reassurance verse. Of course, it’s the word “friend.” Jesus actually calls those around him “friends.” Not subjects, servants, followers. Friends.
In the Old Testament, only Abraham and, by implication, Moses, are called friends of God.
Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? (2 Chronicles 20:7)
But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend. (Isaiah 41:8)
Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. (Exodus 33:11)
Then, in this verse in the New Testament, Jesus extends the claim of friendship to all believers, those who obediently follow Him. Spiritual friendship is not to be taken lightly. We can’t take what we have experienced in earthly friendships and project that onto our relationship with Jesus, assuming we’ll have the same experiences, rights, disappointments, etc. He is a friend like no other. Because of that, He gets to define friendship. He becomes the standard.
Does being friends with Jesus mean we can have fun with Him? Absolutely! God fills our lives with joy, and He gives us vast freedoms. We often make faith about what we can’t do, but it’s so much more about what we can. No rationalizing, just live in loving obedience, and you’ll find abiding love in the freedom of faith.
Does being friends with Jesus mean we get what we want? Yes…and no. When we truly live fully in God’s love, we want what He wants in our lives. His desires become our desires. We yield and trust Him to consume our thoughts and actions, so when we ask for something, it is within His will because of what He desires, not because of our distortion of His desires. If we’re asking for ourselves without letting God drive our requests, without residing in the center of His will, the foundation of the promise to ask and receive isn’t firmly under our feet.
Does being friends with Jesus mean He’s approachable and available? Yes. Always. No exceptions.
Dear God, thank You for Your friendship. Help me to understand what it truly means and how I can stand firmly on the promises of friendship with Jesus. I don’t want to make assumptions or misunderstand. I want to honor You through the friendship and be an encouragement to others. I praise You for Your love.