Good, Real Friendship
Do you have friends? I hope so. Here's the good question, though. What kind of friends do you have? Or better question might be, what kind of friend are you? Jesus gives us a really good measuring stick for friendship today. Here it is. “Love one another as I have loved you.” This I command you to love one another. Right there, Jesus summarizes the key quality of a great friendship in one word, love. It's agape love. Love that gives, love that sacrifices, love that's selfless, love that's patient. That's what Jesus said about true friendship. Love each other as I have loved you. So we're talking about real, true, deep, lasting friendships. Do you have any really good friends? And what kind of friend are you?
One sure way to learn whether you have a real friend is in a moment of crisis. You will see certain qualities. One thing you'll absolutely see is loyalty. Do you have friends who are only there when they need you, but nowhere to be found when your life lands in the ditch? Talking about loyalty, a friend is one who walks in when others are walking out. Love means a real friendship will be rooted in loyalty.
A second thing, love also means there will be forgiveness. Love doesn't hold grudges. Do you have friends who are always reminding you of everything you've done wrong or always holding guilt over your head? Think about Jesus for a second. He invested three years in his 12 closest followers. He taught them. He trained them. He poured himself into them. They were friends. Then when the crisis hit, their loyalty completely broke down. They were jumping ship quicker than George Costanza in Seinfeld. Think about it. Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, to prepare himself for what's about to happen. He tells Peter and the disciples, "Keep watch." And each time he goes out to check, they're fallen asleep. He warns Peter, "Peter, before the cock crows, the next morning, you're going to me three times in the same night." Peter says, "Pfft, Jesus. But no way that's going to happen." Now, think about that. Peter's the rock: “On this rock, I'll build my church.” And Jesus says Peter's going to deny him three times in just a few hours. Peter says no way. Sure enough, three times. First time, servant girl by the fire come says, "Aren't you with that guy, Jesus?" Peter goes, "Woman, I don't know him." Another person comes up and says, "I saw you with Jesus." Peter says, "Nope, not me." Third man comes and asserts that. Peter says, "I don't know what you're talking about." And when he does that, the rooster crows. Peter collapses, and he weeps bitterly because he's been a complete and utter failure to the Lord, his friend.
Fast forward about a week. Jesus has been raised from the dead. He appears to his followers three times. He pulls Peter aside. And Jesus says, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" Peter says, "Yes, Lord. You know that I love you." Jesus says, "Tend my sheep." Jesus says, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter said, "Yes, Lord. You know that I love you. Jesus says, "Tend my sheep." Jesus says, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Peter says, "Yes, Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you." And Jesus says, "Feed my sheep." In the end, Jesus is patient with Peter, and he restores him to leadership. Even when Peter has dropped the ball in the worst way, Jesus still has the last word. And that last word is forgiveness. Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus forgives Peter three times, and he restores him. Good friends, good friendships are rooted in forgiveness.
You also find that real love produces honesty in a friendship. A true deep friend speaks the truth in love. They don't just tell you what you want to hear. They actually tell you when you have spinach in your teeth. And they tell you things that are even harder to hear. A good friend will confront you when you're making a mistake, even when it hurts, because that friend doesn't just want to make you feel better. The real friend hopes to make you a-better-version-of-yourself. Do you have a friend like that? Someone who loves you enough to come to you and say, "You really ought to consider that again," or "if I were you, I think about this," even when they know you probably won't want to hear it. That's what a true deep friend does. They love you enough to speak the truth to make you better.
And finally, a true friendship has dedication. Dedication. A friend sacrifices, is selfless devoted to the friendship, committed. But that's the kind of love God has for us. Dedicated love takes lots of forms. Jesus even says, "Sometimes, it means laying down your life for a friend because almost always dedication means sacrifice."
The phone rang. It was early in the day, and I was in my office working. It was my mom. “Allen, I really need you down here in Florida. We've got to make some tough decisions.” We had to decide that day between hospice care or trying to take my dad home from the hospital. In other words, the end was very near. So I called my good friend. Let's call him Tim. Right after I got off the phone with my mom, Tim had been checking on me, as he did every so often as I tried to walk with my parents, as I walked with them through the valley of the shadow of death. He remembered the loss of his own dad and wanted to be sure that I had someone supporting me through that same time in my own life. "So Tim, I just got off the phone with mom. Don't look good. I'm going to be heading down there as soon as I can throw some things in the car. Just wanted you to know." He said, "I'll be right there." I said, "Dude, you got stuff to take care of right now. I can get to the airport all right. I'll keep you posted. Don't worry about it." He said, "No, no. I'm on my way. I'll pick you up. I'm going to get you to the airport, and I'm going to fly down there with you so that you're not alone. And I'll just come back later on my own." What do you say to somebody like that? Someone who drops everything on your behalf at a moment's notice in unplanned time of crisis. Jesus said that real true friendships will be rooted in love.
Real friends will show loyalty, forgiveness, honesty, and dedication. Love shows itself most of all in times of crisis. That's the kind of love God has for you. What kind of friends do you have? What kind of friend are you?