Alright, well, hey, we’re going to get to our Bibles pretty quick here. So let’s go ahead and start right now. Let’s pass those Bibles down the aisles. You’re going to want one. You’re going to want to be near one. You’re going to want to look at the words in it and read along with us. We are in our series, The Other Six Days. High relationship with Jesus affects your Monday through Saturday.
One of the fundamental Christian confessions, we’ve been saying this for the last couple of weeks, is Jesus is Lord. What that means for us is that Jesus is Lord of all of life, everything. He’s Lord not just of our spiritual life, not just of our church life, not just of our Sunday. He is Lord of my time, of my friendships, of my marriage, not mine but yours, of our work, of our play, of our sexuality.
Everything, Jesus is Lord. As you surmise, we’re talking about friendship this morning. Here is the big idea. You’ll see it at the top of the outline you received on your way in. The big idea, Jesus is Lord of all of life, and that changes everything, including our friendships. Now, what you will also see on your outline is nothing else. That’s not for lack of points is because there’s too many.
We got a lot today. I’m warning you ahead of time, okay? We got a lot to cover. This is a huge topic, and I can’t say everything. I’m going to try and say a lot. Just so you know ahead of time, that’s what’s happening. So take notes as you see fits. Let the Lord guide you in that. Explore the studio space of your paper, and there will be a lot. Let’s get to our scripture for the day, John 15, page 928, which I don’t know if that’s put on the screen yet, but page 928 is where we’re going, John 15.
Here’s what’s happening right now, in this section of the Scripture. This is one of the gospels, one of the stories of Jesus and his life and ministry here on earth. This is towards the end. This is in a section of John, where it’s a large discourse. Jesus is giving his disciples that he spent roughly the last three years or so with his parting words. He knows that he’s about to be arrested very, very soon in Jerusalem.
He knows that will lead to His execution at the hand of the Romans. So it’s like… Remember this stuff, guys, because stuffs going to go down over here. We’re going to read just this little section of that discourse. It has to do with our topic today, so verses 12 through 17. Here’s what he says. He says, “My command is this. Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
“You are my friends if you do what I command. 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.”
Lord, Father, as we open your word this morning, enlighten our minds, enlighten our hearts to your grace, to your truth into the power of your spirit for what we talk about this morning to be true of us as it’s true of you. We ask this stuff, in Jesus’ name. Everybody said.
Wonderful. Ushers, at this time, you can do your thing. If you brought your tithes or offerings, you can prepare those. Thank you so much for your generosity. As you know, everything you give here goes to our mission of helping people find and follow.
That’s right. Wonderful. Like I said, lots to go through today. So here’s the first point. Friendship is necessary? You can draw that shrug emoji. You can put that in the point too, but that’s the question we’re going to ask in this first little section here. We’re going to make the case for or not for friendship. Here’s the State of the Union regarding these types of relationships in our country right now.
A recent study showed that the average American hasn’t made a new friend in five years. The same study showed that 45% of those people are eager to make new friends if they only knew how. One author writes about how our hookup culture and high divorce rates show the deprived state of the modern American for deep, meaningful and lasting relationships. We are relationship anemic in our culture right now. In an incredibly connected world, we are longing for connection more than we ever have, because we aren’t really experiencing it.
That’s the case that a lot of people are making. I would say that I feel this. I understand this. One modern philosopher Todd May, I think, is his name. He says that our American relationships now have become largely consumeristic and entrepreneurial. It means that I have relationships with people because I can gain some personal satisfaction from them. It’s a me-centered thing or because they can give me some material gain.
I get something out of it. So they are consumeristic and entrepreneurial. I had a good friend who moved to a big city in our country number of years ago, and this was what he said. This was his experience. He said, “I got a good job. I got a good thing going on down here and everything, but I don’t have any real friends. Everybody that’s here is here to make some name for themselves.”
“Everybody here is so self-centered that I think I’ll meet somebody who’s a friend, and they’ll find out what I do or who I am or something, and then all of a sudden, I see what their real motive was. And it turns out those relationships were consumeristic or entrepreneurial.” Friendships are hard in the hustle and bustle world. Have you felt this at all? Are we here?
We are friendship anemic. Why? Is it even necessary? Are friendships necessary? I don’t know. Here’s what CS Lewis says, “The argument to be made is that in the modern world, especially as opposed to the ancient world, the world of antiquity, friendship has taken a significant back seat.” He writes that to the ancients. Friendship was the happiest and most full of the human love, the very crown of life itself, but for moderns, they’re relationships that are not the main course in life.
Often, they’re simply diversions or things that are there to fill up any little gaps in our time that we might have. Frankly, we ain’t got no more gaps in our time. We’re busy people. These are not prioritized friendships or relationships in our culture anymore. Here’s a really interesting thing. He takes note of these great romantic stories about Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra. He says they have enumerable modern parallels in modern literature, and now I will say in Hollywood.
Then he lists a number of really, really beautiful stories of friendships from the world of antiquity. I recognize none of them because they have no modern parallels and literature or Hollywood. This is not a story that we care about. This is not a narrative we care about. The Lord of the Rings movies are an anomaly, and that they highlight this friendship thing over the romantic love thing. That’s actually why many people think friendship has fallen by the wayside.
Keller notes, Tim Keller, a pastor, he says that in an individualistic culture like ours, we always put erotic or romantic love first. Do you agree with him? We have idolized this type of love in our culture. Even the show called Friends is primarily about these people’s romantic exploits. Another survey talks about the mid life friendship slump. It says that from this 25-ish to 55 or 60-ish range, the graph of friendship goes like that.
There’s a slump in it. Well, why? Because this is the time when people are in that marriage place and that romantic love place so therefore, the relationships take a backseat. They’re no longer important because our mindset is that once I graduate from these preliminary friendship relationships into the real and ultimate relationship of marriage, love, that I’m there. I’ve reached it. These were stepping stones to help me get here.
They were placeholders until I reached this thing. That’s very opposite from the way the ancients thought. Friendship relationships, friendship love was the crown of life. Are friendships necessary, or are they simply a luxury because after all, who has the time? C.S. Lewis again, Christian author, thinker, says, “Friendship is the least natural of loves.” In comparison to affection, which is the type of love that a mother has for rearing a child, something physiological and biological happens when a mother has a child that makes her raise this child.
As opposed to Eros, an erotic love, that’s a biological function of reproduction for the species. It serves some biological purpose, a natural purpose. He says, “Friendship love is the least natural love. It’s the love that doesn’t naturally quicken our pulse or make us blush. The species biologically considered has no use of it. We can live and reproduce without friendships.”
What this tells us about friendship is it’s completely voluntary. The other ancient philosophers noticed this as well. Cicero, first century Roman philosopher, Aristotle, Cicero, for example, says, “I have the duty to be nobody’s friends, and nobody has the duty to be mine.” It’s voluntary. They all recognize this voluntary nature of friendship, but that’s the thing about it that makes it both vulnerable and profound.
It’s this voluntary nature of friendship that we’re going to press into and talk about that makes it scary, risky, vulnerable, but at the same time gives it the potential to be profound. Cicero, Aristotle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, C.S. Lewis, all these great thinkers, together, they also say, “Even though it’s not necessary, it brings us some quality of life, some important, some highest happiness that is necessary.”
Here’s what I’m going to argue is that it’s that very nature of friendship, that it’s not necessary that makes it necessary. It’s that thing that at the bare bones, brass tacks fact that friendship is not necessary in this biological way, in this natural way. It’s exactly what makes it essential and special and profound and necessary in this full flourishing of human life way. Proverbs 18:24 paints the picture like this, it says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
How can somebody be closer than a brother? That’s family, a sibling. What is that saying? Well, with family, they’re there for you because they’re your family. There’s history. There’s loyalty. There’s blood. We’re family, but sometimes, your sibling isn’t necessarily the person that wants to go get a drink with you. You know what I’m saying? So there’s something about a friend that brings something to your life that nobody else can and nobody else does.
A friend’s love is the only love that is absolutely deliberate, only absolutely deliberate, voluntary, chosen. Author Drew Hunter, he wrote a book called Made for Friendship. He argues some biblical principles about friendship. First, this might be provocative but let’s just try it on to see what we think. He says, “The first problem of the world was not sin but solitude.” Where does he get this?
You get this whole creation account in Genesis 1 and 2, the beginning of our scriptures, right? What does it say? It says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and then God starts putting things together, mountains and land and moon and stars and animals and fish and birds in the sky and all things,” What does he keep saying. He says, “Good, good, good, good, good. This was good. That was good. Mountains, good. Lakes, good. Stars, good. Cows, good. Beef. Good. It’s all good.”
Then all the sudden, you are jarred when you hit verse 18 of chapter two, and after hearing, “Good, good, good, good, good. Good,” something says not good. What is that? Man was alone. It was not good for man to be alone. There was Adam. He created Adam, and it was just him. So he needed a suitable helper, someone like him in a qualitative way. The animals, they weren’t… He couldn’t have some real equal companionship with them.
He needed somebody suitable. So God made Eve from Adam’s side to show a quality, meaning somebody qualitatively equal to be suitable as a companion for him as a friend. Now, dare I say, is this passage talking about friendship in as much or more than it’s talking about marriage? Now look, we see with our cultural eyes. Romantic love is our pinnacle. It’s our highest good. It’s the best possible thing that we could ever aspire to.
It’s the direction to which all of life is aimed this type of love. Surely, marriages in this passage 100%, but is it bigger than that? Why would I have… Why would I bring this passage to us that we have always talked about basically only in this context and say that this might be okay to look at it like this? Well, because you look at the rest of the Scripture, Jesus was single, and it does not say that it was not good.
Paul, who wrote half of our New Testament, he elevates singleness explicitly, and he says, “This is a viable and good and desirable way of life in a culture where singleness meant death.” So not good for man to be alone cannot be talking exclusively about the absence of a marriage relationship. It’s talking about the absence of some mutual equality companionship friendship.
Furthermore, Hunter argues that there’s a large biblical theme throughout the whole of Scripture of friendship. Think about this. We begin in the beginning, which is where you usually begin, with Adam and Eve in the garden, and there’s a naked knowingness between them and God. Man and woman were naked, and they felt no shame. This is not only talking about physical stuff. It’s probably a much bigger picture than that of just complete open vulnerability without any fear.
Everything was out in the open. A naked knowingness between God and themselves, and then sin fractured this openness, in which there was no fear. Now, there’s fear. Now there’s shame, and now there’s the need to feel covered and the need to hide and the need that maybe you don’t stack up, and the need that if somebody really knew me, what would happen? Would they reject me?
The man and woman, they get expelled from Eden, east of Eden. From Genesis 3-11, you have this continuing narrative of mankind, humankind going away from God, Adam and Eve getting kicked out, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, so much violence in the world. There’s the flood. Then you get all the way to chapter 11. Far east, the connections with God have become so tenuous that they’re essentially gone, and everybody’s forgotten who God is, where they came from.
The knowledge of God is left the earth completely, and you have the Tower of Babel and these people saying, “Let us build a tower and make a name for ourselves.” What does God do in the very next chapter, in Genesis 12? The first thing he says after the people have said, “Let us make a name for ourselves,” is he goes, “Abraham, I will make a name for you, and through you, people will know me again.”
“They’ve gotten so far away from me. They’ve completely forgotten. They need to know who I am against. So out of you, I’m going to create a nation that’s going to bless people because through you, they will know me.” Then the nation of Israel is birthed out of Abraham’s descendants. What does God tell Israel? He says, “You will be a nation of priests, the holy nation. When people look at you, they will see me.”
Then out of Israel comes Jesus Himself, the fullest revelation of God. Then we get to our passage in john 15, where he tells his disciples, “Now you know me. I’m calling you friends because I have told you everything you know. You’re back on the inside. The relationship is restored. That’s what makes us friends. Know me again. Go tell people this good news that the king is back in his place, and man can know him as one knows a friend.”
Be very careful. This is not, “Jesus is my homeboy.” In that same passage, he preserves the authority. “You’re my friends if you do what I command.” Jesus is Lord and a friend. We have to operate in that tension. He’s our friend in the sense that He says this relationship, this open knowingness can be restored again, and we can know each other as friends do face to face. That’s what God does with Noah in Exodus 33.
It says, “They talked face to face as friends.” Now once again, Jesus here in the flesh with the face is talking to his people. He’s saying, “You’re my friends now because you see me, because you know me and I know you. Go tell other people this is available to them now.” The friendship is back. Then here’s what he does. He used this friend language to describe the greatest act of love.
Greater love has no one than this, that one would lay down his life for his friends. He knows he’s talking about the cross. He knows where he’s going. Let us not miss this. The cross is projected by Jesus here in friendship language, and it’s an act that is completely necessary for us to come into relationship with him, for us to come into friendship with him and to knowing this with him. It’s an act that’s completely voluntary and absolutely deliberate.
For us, friendship was necessary in a very real sense for our very salvation. Also, if this is a huge piece of who God is and how he works, and we are His image bearers, then it’s fair to say friendship is a necessary part of who we are and how we should live. There’s something about this voluntary, deliberate, embracing of the other that echoes the divine love. So how does this passage that shows who and how Jesus is as friend and Lord inform our friendships Monday through Saturday?
What does Jesus as Lord do to our friendships? Well, it shows us three things. We’re going to get through this in the rest of the sermon here. Friendships are deliberate. Friendships are vulnerable, and friendships are profound. Friendships are deliberate. Friendships are vulnerable. Friendships are profound. So first, friendships are deliberate. Point number two, have you ever found like you just haven’t found the right friend yet?
Have you ever want like, “If I just came here on a Sunday and bumped into the right person in the commons, and it was like, “Oh, friends?” We feel like friends are happenstance. Think of how you met one of your good friends. If you have a good friend in your life, how did you guys meet? It feels like chance half the time, doesn’t it? But that also makes it feel hopeless when you don’t have any friends.
Here’s the truth. Friendships are deliberate. Yes, friends are found, but also, they’re forged. Friends are found and forged. Not forged like when you fake your mom’s signature on the note you got from school that says, “Hey, he got in trouble today.” You take it back to school. It’s like, “Why does it only say her first name?” It just says mom by the way. I know. I can see right through you.
No, forged like they go through a process and they come out the other side stronger because of it. friends are found sure, but then they are forged. Story. I talked about my friends often in my sermons, James and Ashley, my best friends, my absolute best friends for 12 years now, married couple now. They have five kids. They’re my best friends in the world. I met them by chance. James was a co-worker’s sister’s new husband in a Uno night game group.
Friends are found. That was by chance. However, friends are also forged. What happened in that time of my life is I was 23. I’ve said pieces of this before here. A girlfriend of five years broke up with me, and I was coming to church at that time a little bit. I was on the edge of saying yes to Jesus like, “I think this is the thing I need to do.” That straw that broke the camel’s back, real easy on that one. So I became a Christian. I started following Jesus, and I knew that James was a Christian and he went here.
So I came to our college group here, and he was the guy that was helping with our college ministry worship. When you walk into a room of 100 people, and you see somebody else that you know, I’m going to go stand by you. “Hi.” “Hey.” “So I’m a Christian now.” “Cool, man.” “All right.” That’s how it… It wasn’t like I just walked over to him. It wasn’t like, “Oh my gosh, we were going to be best friends for years and years from now on. Let’s go skip through the parking lot together and to karate, whatever.”
That’s not how it happened. That friendship, it was forged. Here’s why. I became best friends with him and his wife. Here’s what happened. It was deliberate and intentional, because I just broke up with an old… Let’s be clear. She broke up with me. I’m a mess of a person in this time. This is hard, so Jesus is turning my life upside down. The most significant relationship in my life is now gone. It’s just I’m a mess. What ends up happening is I’m at their house four, five nights a week for over a year, probably closer to two to be honest.
Now, put yourself in their shoes. Newly married couple, they’ve been married for, I don’t know, a year. They had their first kid right when I started hanging out with them. Now, they have two crying people in their house, not multiple nights a week, most nights a week. We make the mistake of thinking good friendships are always easy. Does that sound easy to you? It was not easy. Well, it was easy for me. There were often cookies.
I don’t think it was easy for them, but I’ll tell you what, Jesus is Lord of their lives meant that they were deliberate about saying, “Our door is open. We welcome in the brokenhearted, the one in need, the friend in Christ.” Our friendship, it was found but then it was forged. Our friendship wasn’t just God’s provision and some lucky happenstance. It was God’s provision paired with God’s people living God’s way.
Friendships are deliberate, and we make the mistake of thinking that good friendships are always easy. Proverbs 14:4 says it like this, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes abundant harvests.” Some of us in the room here are having a hard time maintaining or forging friendships because we’re making the mistake of wanting to keep the manger clean. We’re making the mistake of thinking good friendships are always easy, and in fact, that’s what makes it a good friendship, the fact that it’s easy.
Don’t fool yourself. Where you have people, you will have stuff. Where you have oxen, you will have manure. If friendships are deliberate, then it maintains the manger. If friendships are deliberate, you address that stuff. You maintain that stuff to forge your friendship. Why? Because from an ox comes in abundant harvests. From relationships, from people, from being willing to do that stuff comes the abundant harvest of friendship.
Jesus’ brother James, for instance, in our New Testament, this is a paraphrase of chapter three of James. He says, “Real wisdom, God’s wisdom begins with the holy life and is characterized by getting along with others, is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”
Friendships are found, but more often, they’re probably forged, deliberate. You have the hope of this in your life, but I’m telling you, only if you’re willing to do the hard work of getting along with each other, and Jesus as Lord says, “I’m willing to deal with people in love because he was willing to deal with me.” James and Ashley are actually willing to say, “Our door is open because Jesus is Lord of our life, so that means this is how we live and who we are.”
I understand that where there’s oxen, there’s going to be manure. Another way friendship is deliberate is be an initiator, not a reciprocator. Be an initiator, not reciprocator, so Proverbs 11:25 says it like this, “A generous person will prosper. Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Same verse, different translation. “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched. The one who waters will himself be watered.”
What is this saying? It’s saying you don’t find friends by looking for them. It’s not, “Who is my friend?” It’s, “To whom am I a friend?” This dynamic for you gets confidently flipped when Jesus is Lord, because this is who He is, and this is what He does. Jesus as Lord means he’s already been a friend to me. He is the first initiator. Jesus is the great initiator. He calls His disciple friends in our passage. He calls His disciples friends in our passage we read today, not because of what they did for Him, but because what He did for them.
He’s saying, “I’m about to do this thing for you, and all you have to do is you don’t have to reciprocate equally, you just have to recognize that it happened, and you’re my friends.” He was the initiator. He wasn’t waiting for the disciples to make the first move. He made the first move. That’s what Paul writes about in Romans 5. He says, “Just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Now, very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person, someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, aka not friends, Christ died for us.”
Now, Paul’s using the language of friendship of his time in this passage. In antiquity, the people who said, “Friendship love is the crown of life,” they have this understanding of friendship that loyalty is one of the key, the key elements of it, and they talk about often loyalty to the point of death. A good friend will die for a good friend. So Paul’s picking up on this language is in the cultural river, and he’s saying, “Yeah, for a righteous person, somebody might die.”
A good friend might possibly dare to die for their good friend, but Jesus, he has elevated the standard for us and He says, “You’re not willing to die for somebody because they’ve been so good to you already. You’re willing to die for them when they’ve done nothing for you yet at all. Be an initiator, not a reciprocator. Jesus didn’t die for us because we were such good friends to Him. He died for us because he’s such a friend to us.
Jesus is Lord means I am now an initiator. The gospel frees us to be friends. The gospel frees me to be a friend, and the Bible flies in the face of ancient and contemporary wisdom that friendships are equally reciprocal. In order to be good, they need to be equally reciprocal, tit for tat. I have another really, really my best friends Brandon Jesse and other married couple. That friendship is not reciprocal friends, Rhonda and Jessie, another married couple.
That friendship is not reciprocal, friends, because I’m single, and Jessie is the chef. I eat at their house 19 nights a week. I can never repay them for that, and they’ve never asked me to. That’s friendship. The way that friendship started was Miranda initiated. She works here at the church with me, and she goes, “Hey, you seem like you don’t totally suck. You want to come have dinner with us?”
It turns out she was right, but even she continues to be an initiator in our friendship. I’m not totally, I’m trying, but she knew that I was struggling with this sermon. As you can tell, it’s a bear. I’m just like, “Oh, I need to get this done. So much studying, so much stuff.” I’m writing it and she calls me. She’s like, “Yo, you need a snack? You need a treat? You need a coffee? You need a cookie? What’s going on?”
I did in fact need… Yes, I needed a cookie but I took the coffee instead, because… She brought me a coffee. She’s an initiator, not a reciprocator. The gospel frees us to be those kinds of friends. Friendship also, it can be non-reciprocal in this other way that we tend to think we need to be friends with people that are our likes or our equals, so that the friendship can be equally reciprocal.
If you are like me in these ways, or you have the same status as me or whatever, if I’m confident that what I give you, I can’t get back from you. Essentially, you’re just going to be friends with people that are pretty much like you, but if the gospel frees us from that, then here’s the huge truth to realize, “I don’t need to be like you to like you.” Now, often, Christians tend to fall into a network of mostly Christian friends, the status after about two years of you following Jesus, you kind of step back into these only Christian relationships, and that’s to our detriment, friends.
I don’t know if I mentioned this earlier. I don’t think I did, but I mean, everything I’m talking about here today, this is applicable to the friendships that are within the Christian family and not. I mean, there’s a couple things that are specifically in the spiritual Christian fellowship that I’m talking about, but the majority of stuff I’m talking about this morning can be exercised outside of exclusively Christian relationships, and I hope that it is.
Here’s why Jesus is Lord means that I can be friends with people who are not Christians, because Jesus as Lord, if we make that confession in our life, what we’re understanding is this fundamental truth that I needed saved by Jesus. We understand this fundamental truth that all people need saved by Jesus. So in that way, I am united universally to all of humanity in our human brokenness, but that paves the way for us to be united. It gives us the potential to be united in love.
If we understand Jesus, we understand that at the foot of the cross, I mean, there is no difference. This is what Paul writes in Galatians 3, “No slave, no free, no Jew, no Gentile, no male, no female.” Why does he say these things when he’s talking about, “Hey, Jesus as Lord, no slave, no free, no male, no female, no Jew, no Gentile.” He’s taking the three biggest socio cultural dividers of the first century, and He’s saying, “These walls that we have put up in between relationships, Jesus has torn down and transcended.”
The three biggest things that would separate relationships and people and humanity, Paul says, “No more. No more do they separate. In fact, now they have potential to unite in light of Jesus as Lord.” Look at the disciples, a zealot and a tax collector in the same group. Do you know really what a zealot was? They were a violent revolutionary. They believe the way that God’s kingdom is going to come back to Earth is if I take some action and violently overthrow Rome, if I get together a little militia and we do our thing.”
Now, a tax collector is somebody who’s in bed with Rome. Tax collector’s a Jew who says, “Hey, Rome, I’ll collect taxes for you if I can skim a little bit off the top for myself.” He’s making money off of his friends for Rome. These two people, same small group. Can you imagine how awkward the first two meetings were? But that’s the thing. That’s what Jesus does is He takes those walls down. So Christians, that means if Jesus as Lord, it’s actually all the more reason we should have friends who aren’t Christians.
Why do you think people called Jesus friend of sinners? Because he hung out with people who were so unlike Him, and that’s not to say like, “Anybody who’s not a Christian is just this terrible…” We’re all sinners, okay, but you get what I’m saying. What I’m saying, I’m not making a case against Christian community. I’m saying the very nature of the Christian community is that they’re a community that exists for the benefit of those who are not in it.
Too often, we turn that inside-out. We get inwardly focused. It’s one of the dividers. Here’s another one. I’m going to meddle a little bit. I’m just going to. Here’s a divider within the Christian community that I’ve currently already alluded to a number of times. It’s married people and single people. That’s the thing. I’m old for a Christian single person. I’m not going to tell you how old. I’m old. You know how old I am.
That’s a unique place in the Christian community, because we elevate marriage very, very, very much, and it’s a wonderful, beautiful thing. I’m on board. I hope that that’s my future stuff. I’m not like captain celibacy or anything over here. Right now but not… This one’s not going on the podcast. Can we just know each other and be friends, please? This is the divide in the Christian community, not just necessarily specifically our church, in the church at large, the Christian community.
It’s something to be aware of. Here’s what I realized as I was studying for this sermon and writing it. It was like, “My best friends are actually married couples, and I’m not just friends with the husband.” It’s like, “Oh, if your wife’s around, cool, whatever, but I mean, if she’s on vacation, let’s go do our cool guy thing or whatever.” No, I’m friends with the couples. Apparently, that’s an anomaly.
Apparently, that’s weird. I feel like God has blessed me in that. I was thinking, “How did I end up there? How are my best friends in my life actually married couples?” I realized, “Here’s one.” Really, I’m speaking to the married couples right now. I’m telling you this is how it happened for me. These were people that had the guts to invite me over before the kids’ bed time. You’re laughing because you know what that means.
You know the disaster that is your house between dinner and bedtime, right? Why would I want anybody to be a part of this? I’ve seen it firsthand. It’s horrible, but it’s good for me. It’s good for people. It’s good for other single people to see what a healthy marriage is like. It’s good for a healthy marriage to see what a single life is like. It’s good. We don’t need to be like each other to be friends.
This is one of the barriers that we just fall into by default, and I’m just simply asking why. I don’t care if your house is a mess. Look at me. I know that kids are annoying sometimes. I know that your kid’s going to spill something on me. I know. I know you kids going to throw a fit. Don’t be embarrassed about it. It’s a kid. Just like, “Go away.” That’s not how it works. Here’s what I’m saying. If we forge friendship deliberately, be intentional.
Be an initiator. Invite somebody into that time of your life, because I think there are some married people out there that you think your single friends don’t want any part of that. I’m just saying, “Don’t say no for them.” Single people, maybe you really are like, “Dude, I want no part of that.” It’s good for you. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the parents, because sometimes they need somebody else to just throw the kids around for a while to give them a break.
It’s good for both people. It’s important, and it’s getting close. Single people, here’s what you have to know. It means you’re going to hang out at their house 99.9999999% of the time, and that’s okay. Me and James and Ashley have been best friends for 12 years. I don’t even know if they’ve seen my house. That’s just how it is when people got kids. There are concessions on both sides, but look, we all have those signs in our house because we’re Christians, right? Let’s say bless this mess was first thing I did when I bought a house, but just kidding.
I bought, live, laugh, love. That’s my sign. All I’m saying is invite somebody else into your mess because they will be blessed. That’s all I’m saying. That leads us to our next point. Friendships are vulnerable. Friendships are vulnerable. Jesus says his act of friendship love is laying down his life. That’s vulnerability, friends. So to be a real friend, you need to be close. The thing that defines friendship over and opposed to servant in our text is the fact that the disciples have been brought close.
They know things a servant doesn’t. Friends need to be close to really know each other, and closeness requires vulnerability. If you’re willing to invite me over to your house before bedtime, when things are a disaster, I’m going to know the real you. I’m going to see how you react to your kids’ face. I’m going to see you in sweatpants, sweatpants fellowship. That’s what it is. Are you willing to let somebody see the real you that is not putting on an outfit or a face?
Are we willing to let people into the middle of the messiness of our life? Here’s Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a great theologian, author. He says it like this, “The pursuit of the other in open friendship requires a level of trust and vulnerability that is rooted in the freedom of the gospel. This is what sets friendship apart from other institutions. It’s under no obligation or mandate, meaning it’s voluntary, we talked about that, aside from Jesus’ insistence that the servant-master relationship or that the hierarchy of relationships is dismantled,” meaning we’re all equal in the eyes of friendship.
“Human beings are created free, but freedom is for relationship for community.” It’s in those times when I’m at your house between dinner and bedtime, that I see that we’re really not so different after all. Look, you can make twice as much money as me every year. You can be a person that’s much more important in the community. You can be a different race. You can be a different religion, but we all wear sweat pants when we get home.
Friendships are voluntarily close, and therefore vulnerable and therefore risky. Friendship is risky, because proximity can bring pain and it can bring power. When you’re close to someone, when you let yourself be known, there’s a chance you’ll be rejected. There’s a chance you’ll be betrayed, but this path that could bring pain is also the path that brings power. It’s in the nearness. In that vulnerability zone, we see that there’s no Jew, no Gentile, no slave, no free, no male, no female.
It’s in that realization in that place where the power of real friendship happens. So how do we dare risk this? Some of you in this room this morning are saying, “How do I dare risk that again? I’ve been burned before. I’ve been betrayed before. I was open with somebody, and it came back and bit me in the butt. And I am so afraid to do that again.” How do we dare risk this?
Well, there’s someone who really does know you. There’s someone who really does know you better than you’ve been known by anybody ever, and he did not reject you. You’re only willing to risk earthly rejection in light of heavenly acceptance. That’s the gospel. That’s Jesus as Lord. That’s how that affects your willingness to risk being known by somebody.
I just feel like there’s so many people out there. You’re just desperate to be known, and you’re so scared to put yourself in that place. It’s risky. It’s worth it. Here’s the other truth about friendship being vulnerable. It’s not for flattery. Friendships are not for flattery. Proverbs 27:6 said it like this, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
The one who’s multiplying the kisses in this verse, who is it? It’s the enemy, and so many of us think of that as friendship right now. That’s what friends do, but friendships are vulnerable. It means that they’re the right place and context for a trusted someone to tell us something real about what it’s like on the other side of ourselves. That’s scary. This is the pain that proximity brings.
It’s not always a bad pain. This pain is a growing pain. This is a good pain. Some of us have been in relationships where they’re good and real, and the friend is attempting to tell us something real about ourselves that we need to hear. We get mad and we leave, “How could they say that to me? This is a terrible friendship, whatever.” Well, if that’s you, and you were in that situation where somebody was trying to tell you something in a place of love and trust that is true, that you needed to hear, I mean, and you run away from that, you don’t want a friend.
You want an enemy. You want somebody who’s going to multiply kisses. Friendship is not for flattery, but Hello, if Jesus is Lord, then I am the type of person who knows I am not perfect, and I’m willing to be confronted with the truth about myself for His glory for my good. I want to know these things. I need to know these things, and friendship is the safest place for that kind of pain to happen. Because if it doesn’t happen there, it’s going to show up somewhere else.
If you don’t figure out those things in a safe place of friendship, they’re going to be found out at work, and that’s going to hurt worse. If it’s not found in friendship, you might find it later in a failure, and that’s going to hurt worse. So lead into that element of friendship. Friendships have to be vulnerable, because vulnerability paves the way to intimacy. I think this is our number one barrier to friendships right now in our culture.
I’ve already talked that we’re afraid to be known. We’re afraid, but this is the only path. If you’re longing for this type of relationship, this is the only path. Christ’s vulnerability himself to the point of death on the cross is exactly what paved the way to our intimacy with God. It’s the only path. In a small, small way, we echo that risk in our relationships with one another, what Christ did, the path that he walks, and we get intimacy from the path that he walked.
We have the possibility for that in keeping following that path in our lives here now with Jesus as Lord Monday through Saturday. I’m only willing to risk earthly rejection in light of heavenly acceptance. It’s not always going to go perfect, but it’s the only way to break through. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it like this. He says, “It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship and service,” the things we do in this place on a Sunday morning.
“It may be though even in spite of all this, that we may still be left to our loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. You’re not really known. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner, so everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.”
“We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered amongst the righteous. So we remain alone in our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy when the fact is that we are sinners.” He’s saying this is the only path. This is the only path, vulnerability, and it’s going to be risky. The other thing about this path of intimacy is I just want to make sure don’t confuse intimacy with romance.
Don’t confuse intimacy with romance. I have many, many intimate relationships in my life that are not romantic. Sometimes, I think the mistake we make is we think we can’t have intimacy if we don’t have romance. That is a lie. I have many deep friendships that give me so much life that I love that give the crown of my life. Christ’s vulnerability towards me, His vulnerability towards me has made me willing to risk being vulnerable with others, has made me risk the path to intimacy with others.
Often when I’m vulnerable, what happens is that others are vulnerable with me. I find that vulnerabilities met with vulnerability. It’s that voluntary risky nature of friendship that makes them vulnerable. That also gives them the chance to be profound. That’s our last point. Friendships are profound. In our text, Jesus says, “Hey, I got you guys together. You’re my friends, but I’ve called you to something bigger than yourselves. Go bear fruit. Go produce something outside of yourself.”
Friendship is not the destination. It’s the vehicle. There’s something we can do together that we can’t do apart. There’s some maturity we reach, a fullness we step into. If God Himself is existing in this consistent Trinitarian exchange of voluntary, deliberate love that’s eager to welcome others in, which we’ve seen because Christ came before us from that place of voluntary deliberate love, then there’s a friendship, and us echoing that, one of the primary vehicles by which we experience and practice Christ’s likeness here and now, yes, which means friendship is a spirit discipline, just as much as Bible reading, just as much as prayer, just as much as solitude, just as much as fasting.
Something about friendship love pursues the other because they are the other, and because we understand it’s not good for man to be alone. So friendship love is safe to let the other remain the other. I don’t need to be like you to like you. You don’t need to be like me for me to like you.
Last Bonhoeffer quote, this is what he says about this dynamic. He says, “God did not make this person as I would have made him. He did not give him to me as a brother for me to dominate and control, but in order that I might find above him the creator. Now the other person, in the freedom with which he was created, becomes the occasion of joy, whereas he was only a nuisance and an affliction before. God does not will that I should fashion the other person according to the image that seems good to me, that is in my own image.”
“Rather, in his very freedom from me, God made this person in his image, in God’s image. I can never know beforehand how God’s image should appear in others. That image always manifest the completely new and unique form that comes solely from God’s free and sovereign creation. To me, the sight may seem strange, even ungodly, but God creates every man in the likeness of His Son, the crucified. And after all, even that image certainly looks strange and ungodly to me before I grasped it.”
What is Bonhoeffer saying? He’s saying friendships are profound, and that a person that might seem strange ends up being a vision of the holy you had never imagined before. You see, we’re all images of God, but no one person aside from Jesus encapsulates and reflects all of who God is. So we need each other as others if we dare have any hope of seeing a fuller picture of the real and infinite and transcendent God.
What this means is it means that friendship love is not a jealous love. It’s a love that welcomes others in because that’s when it flourishes more. It eagerly looks for others to welcome in because C.S. Lewis explains it like this. I’m going to paraphrase. He says, “When Bob is around, he brings out things in Larry and Bill that I don’t get to see when he’s not there. There’s an element of Bob’s Bobness that draws things out of my friends that I don’t draw out of them myself.”
“There’s stuff in there in Larry and Bill about who God made them that I get to see based on Bob’s willingness to be deliberate and vulnerable with our group of friends. If Bob isn’t around, did I miss that piece of those two other friends and also therefore that part of God’s image in them too?” What does this show us about the profoundness of friendship? When I engage others, knowing Jesus is Lord, I’m willing to take the risk of being deliberate and vulnerable.
When I know God more, I risk knowing people more, but here’s what happens. When I know people more, I end up knowing God more, and not just me, but when I have a group of friends, other people end up knowing God more because of what I bring to that circle and bring out of those people. This mutual drawing out of one another in this voluntary choosing love that echoes the divine, in turn, makes God’s image increasingly clear and full for all to see.
That’s the profound fruit of friendship. So, friendship is necessary. When Jesus is Lord, I know friendships must be deliberate and vulnerable. Only then do they have the potential to be profound. Let’s pray. Jesus, first of all, thank you that you call us friends. Thank you that you initiated that you moved towards us to make us your friends. It’s an honor and a blessing that you would give us the power of your spirit and your divine acceptance that we could risk imitating your friendship love to those around us.
God, we pray for the power of your spirit to be able to do that, to be able to risk that. We pray that your spirit goes ahead of us in those relationships, in those people, and that there’s some profound fruit there that is yet to be drawn out that you have put ahead of us. God, give us the willingness to be deliberate, the willingness to initiate, the willingness to risk again. As we engage in friendships with others, help us to engage ever increasingly more in a friendship with you as Lord.
Thank you that that’s even a possibility for us because of what you’ve done. This in Jesus’ name, we ask all these things. Everybody said.