This morning I was working with my preschooler on her Bible verse for the letter “Y” which happens to be John 15:14. It says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” We read it together several times and I explained what Jesus meant when he said that his friends keep His commandments. We read a little story that is supposed to help her remember the concept and then I asked her if she remembered her verse. This was her version: “Friends do whatever I say.” I laughed because at times that seems to be what she thinks about friendship, but thankfully she had a pretty good understanding of what the verse was teaching.
After our little conversation was over, I continued to think about this verse and its implications on my own friendships. The reality is that if Jesus is such a great friend to me, then I should seek to be the same kind of friend to others that He is to me.
If you think about it, there are lots of things that make Jesus the best possible friend. As I sifted through traits like love, faithfulness, compassion, etc., I realized that there was one foundational truth that seemed to shape all the others – He always has my best interest in mind. I don’t mean to say that He gives me whatever I want or “does whatever I say”, but that His friendship with me has the aim of making me a better me.
This might be one of the most defining characteristics of genuine friendship. Friends are those special people that we can count on because we know they actually care about us. Solomon expressed this with the imagery of companions walking together. He says that “two are better than one… If either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).” I think the benefit he is describing includes any situation where we might need to be “lifted up” emotionally, spiritually or otherwise.
Similarly, Paul exhorts believers to “…encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)…” This pictures an unfinished structure to which a friend adds the necessary pieces for completion. What a wonderful picture of what Jesus does for each of us and what a challenge to each of us in our friendships. We are not judging the incompleteness, but working with them to become what they are truly meant to be. A true friend has the ability to both accept you for who you are and love you enough to push you toward what’s best for you. That’s because, like Jesus, genuine friends have each other’s best interest in mind. May God grant that each of us grow increasingly into the kind of friend that Jesus is and wants us to be.