Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. (John 15:13–15, KJV)
Jesus called His disciples “friends.” Why? Because He decided to trust them. He decided to love them. He decided to commit to them and open up to them. A servant is available at a moment’s call, but this relationship is more distant and obligatory. It wasn’t the relationship that Jesus was looking for. He held back nothing from His followers and risked everything for them. Jesus set a standard for us to follow. By this definition, the greatest expression of love and friendship is the willingness to lay down our lives for another. This is a primary theme of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the apostolic teachings.
Jesus prophesied that, at the time of the end, the love of most would grow cold (Matt. 24:12). I think His prophecy has come true.
Our supply of love is low, even though the demand for love is high. It is my opinion that the church also registers low on sacrifice. We, in the United States, are the most independent, affluent society in the world, but our love is incomplete. Friends are in short supply. When life becomes difficult, it is not unusual to find that no one is really there for you.
If we are interested in being friends with the Master, there is a condition we must meet. We must obey His commands. People who simply live however they want to live are not friends of the Lord. To be His friends, we must follow His example of love and be willing to lay down our lives for Him. That is part of an obedient Christian life. Since Jesus showed us what real love is like, we should follow in His footsteps. After all, if you cannot love the Lord, you cannot love anyone else. He is perfect in every way and is the most loving friend anyone can imagine. If we can’t love Him, whom can we love? The reverse is also true. If we cannot love someone else, it reveals our lack of love toward God. We need to rely on His love to love others by allowing His love to flow through us. Our natural, human love runs out over time.
So, where is our relationship with the Lord? Since the love among believers is so low, our relationship with Jesus needs to be re-evaluated. The vertical relationship between God and man has a horizontal component. In 1 John 4:20, the Apostle John writes that you cannot say that you love God but hate your brother. These things are incompatible. What can you do if you think that you are not God’s friend the way you should be? This can change if you commit to Him, trust in Him, and seek to pursue this relationship with all your heart. It is amazing how quickly love can be poured out if you come honestly and sincerely before our God. I, myself, have let the Lord down.
Especially going back to my early college ministry days, I was particularly prone to falling into relationships that were not pleasing to Him. When I failed Him, He showed me that, whenever I sinned, it was like hammering nails into His hands and feet all over again. There was a direct relationship between my sin and Jesus’ torturous death on the cross.
This revelation changed my life. From that time on, I committed to be His friend. For the first time, I had a hatred for sin. It was a gift to think and feel this way. It cannot be conjured up out of religious effort or show.