Friday, March 14, 2008

have you seen my friend?

12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other. Jhn 15:12 - 17

Friends, friendship, interesting terms aren’t they? What do they mean, really? Have we ever thought about them before we use the terms?

For some of us, “friend” means an acquaintance, someone we have met but know little about, like a MySpace friend. For others, the term “friends” takes us back to our days in high school or college where we banded and bonded with like minded comrades. The TV series by the same name was so popular, in part because I think so many people long for what the characters seemed to possess as friends. And for yet others of us, “friend” refers to a very specific person who has seen us at our best and worst and stills chooses to hang out with us anyway. Go figure.

When students were following a rabbi, the last thing they would have thought was their teacher was their “buddy”. Their relationship was quite formal. It would have been more appropriate for the followers of a rabbi to think of themselves as servants. Not in terms of being butlers and maids, but more as caregivers of their teacher. We see in the life of Jesus how his disciples were tasked with caring for the finances, providing food, acquiring transportation, and procuring a place to stay.

Can there be “love” between a servant or caregiver and their master? Of course. But certainly that love is different than the love between friends. Is a person is more likely to willingly sacrifice for their friend than a slave for a master? Certainly, no master would ever sacrifice for his servant. Jesus says the acid test of love is this; dying for the one you call a friend. Clearly Jesus did that, as the disciples watched over the subsequent hours.

But Jesus had to make sure that there was a significant change in the disciple’s mindset. I no longer call you servants… How odd that had to sound to the disciples ears. Well beyond paradigm shift, this would have been a cultural abnormality. Instead, I have called you friends… Love was the basis of their relationship, not service. The disciple’s relationship was not based on what they could do for him, but what he would do for them out of His love.

Now that is all quite fabulous. We could extract hours, even days of warm fuzzy off that truth. But it gets even better. This sacrificial love is a relationship of choice.

Now I was not a very athletic kid growing up. I know it is difficult to imagine given my current physical prowess. I’ll wait while the laughter subsides. One the childhood traumas I had to endure was being selected last or next to last when it came time for games. I wasn’t popular or talented, so there was no reason to pick me. I wasn’t the brightest or the best at anything.

Neither were the disciples. But, they loved Jesus. They wanted to be with Him. They chose to leave their families and businesses to be with Jesus. Jesus rocked their world, blew them away when he told them, “I chose you”. To be chosen as a friend, not a servant? I image the disciples sat there agape. What would that mean to someone who had never been picked for anything? What would that mean to someone who had nothing to offer anyone?

I was chosen. You were chosen. We were picked, not because we were the brightest and the best, not because of our talent or training. We were chosen because we were loved. We were selected to receive a gift we didn’t ask for or even deserve. Jesus picked me to be His friend.

I needed to hear that today. My screw-ups are many. My mistakes are obvious. My lacks are huge. But Jesus didn’t pick me because of what I could offer Him. He chose me because of what He could give to me – love, forgiveness, relationship, purpose, mission.

Ok, friends, it time for us to play a game. It’s called discipleship. The object of the game is to tell others of My love for them. To tell them I have chosen them to be My friend. I need to pick a team that will carry this new game on to others. I choose…” Jesus picked you.

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