What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.
Oh what peace we often forfeit! Oh, what needless pain we bear;
All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptation, is there trouble anywhere;
We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do they friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In His arms He'll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.
The poem above was written in 1855 by Joseph Scriven to his mother as she lay dying from an illness. Joseph wrote from a heart already experienced with grief and loss - his fiancé drowned the night before their wedding in 1843 when Joseph was only 23 years old. The original name of the poem was Pray Without Ceasing, and was later renamed by Charles Crozat Converse when he used the poem to write the hymn "What a Friend We Have In Jesus." This hymn, like so many others, was written from a place of personal pain, and yet points to a relationship with Jesus as the most important of foundations. This poem states so eloquently something incredibly life changing. Jesus is our best friend.
There is something unique about friendship begun by circumstance or purpose rather than by a family relationship. Friends are the family we choose; the people we walk with, cry with, and purposely spend time with. We voluntarily give power to our friends to hurt us because we let them see our vulnerabilities and our frailties. There is a connection that comes from knowing someone sees the worst of us and loves us anyway.
The Bible walks through hundreds of verses on what it means to care for and love one another. The second commandment says "love your neighbor as yourself." Love includes so many things; patience, forgiveness, kindness, thoughtfulness, and an intentional care for the needs of another. Love of a neighbor is more than simply being nice to the person next door. It's intentional, purposeful and full of meaning. Still, Jesus adds more to God's command to love our neighbor in the book of John.
John 13:34-35 says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This really leaves no middle ground for the believer. Loving as Jesus loves requires a life-long commitment to putting ourselves last and choosing to serve others over our own comfort. Jesus loved his disciples with his life, He loves us with his life still.
Even further Jesus says in John 15:13-15, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."
Jesus says, "You are my friends IF you do what I command you." Loving others is not a request from a powerless God. It is a commandment from OUR SAVIOR.
God is expecting me, as a believer, to willingly serve others the way Jesus served his disciples and cared for people around him. This is no small task, and is not easy. But God sent his son to earth to show us how real love is done. We are to emulate JESUS, point others to him, and love others deeply because God first loved us.
Oh, and Jesus also looked up to heaven as he hung on the cross and asked his Heavenly Father to forgive those who tortured, maimed and crucified him. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NIV). Wow.
They will know we are Christians by our love is not merely a cool saying and Bible verse to pull out when it is convenient. It is truth, and God means it. We are called to be a friend to others in extraordinary ways. When we look at friendship in terms of how Jesus views his love for others, we see someone who willingly gave his time and love to men who would deny him, leave him and betray him. Jesus valued conversations with his friends, and he pushed them to care for others and serve beyond what they ever thought possible. Jesus KNOWS ME inside and out - and he loves me anyway.
People will not know we are Christians by the number of Bible verses we have memorized, or by the name of the church we attend. I Corinthians 13 begins with, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." We can say we are Christians all we want, but others will not know the truth of what that means if we are not also demonstrating the compassion of Jesus. They will know we are Christians by our LOVE, by how we treat our friends (and our enemies, but that is another blog).
I firmly believe it is of great benefit to spend time reading The Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 13 on a regular basis. We need constant reminders of what truly makes a believer a believer. It's not the political party we belong to, or church membership, stickers on our car, the quick phrase we post on socials, or the picture-perfect family. I'm not slamming any of those things, but I am saying they don't a Christian make, and they don't make a friend of Jesus either.
"You are my friends if you do as I command," and "They will know we are Christians by our love" aught to constantly ping against the psyche of the Christian mind. They are part of our deepest beliefs and therefore are how we interpret the world around us. I love others because God first loved me. I have depth of friendships when I remember Jesus is my best friend and he died for me.
Jesus jumps out from the pages of God's Word and shows us how to be the best of friends.
Today our podcast is a discussion about friendship; how friends love us, care for us, hurt us and sometimes disappoint us. We talk about loneliness and our need for family and friends, because we are created relationship-ready at birth. However, at the forefront is always the reminder that Jesus is our best friend and desires to walk in friendship with us every day - and He never lets us down.
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." Galatians 6:2-3