In John 15, Jesus reminds his followers that the highest value in his kingdom is love. My command, he tells them, is to love one another.
He tells his disciples (including you and me):
I 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. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.—John 15:15-17
We should consider it a privilege to be a servant of Jesus. And yet, he invites us to so much more: to be friends.
The word in Greek is philos, meaning someone who is dearly loved, but even more specifically, a close confidante, a friend to whom we would be willing to share our deepest secrets. This is the word Jesus uses to describe his preferred relationship with us.
It's so easy to take this truth: God loves the whole world (see John 3:16), and mistakenly assume that Jesus loves us from a distance, or out of obligation. Or we are somehow covered by the blanket of love he drapes over all of humankind. When pressed, we might admit that we're not so confident in an intimate kind of love. But the fact is, that's the kind of love that Jesus has for you. He has called you friend.
Consider the following from Deeply Loved:
With our closest friends, we do not stop at "How are you?" and "I'm fine." We are willing to tell what's really going on, willing to listen to one another. More specific questions—How is your marriage? How are you feeling about your career, about your parenting? How is the challenging situation you told me about going?—those questions pry beneath the surface. Within a trusting relationship, we can examine our motives, get feedback on what others hear us saying. We can move beyond "fine." If we are to develop a close friendship with Jesus, we must bring those same rules of engagement into our relationship with him.
Friendship with Jesus
When the Bible mentions the act of eating together, we need to understand the significance of that action. To eat with someone in that culture and time was not only to accept them, but to covenant with them to protect them. It was an act of intimate friendship and allegiance. So to understand the friendship of Jesus, we can look at verses that mention shared meals.
- Jesus initiates our friendship with him. We cannot earn his affection. "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you" (John 15:16).
- Sometimes, true friends tell us hard truth—they rebuke us, try to redirect us away from the path of sin. Jesus is no different. But his goal in truth-telling is intimacy. "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me" (Revelation 3:19-20).
- We don't have to be perfect to be friends with Jesus. In fact, he's glad to be friends with sinners (which is what we all are). "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'" (Luke 15:1-2)
- Friendship with Jesus brings us joy. "'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete'" (John 15:9-11).