What Is True Friendship?

Sunday of Week 6 in Eastertide

John 15:9-17

The word 'friend' is one of the most beautiful in human language. None of us is so strong and self-sufficient that we can live life at its best without the strength of friendship. And in today's Gospel Jesus tells us that we are not servants but His friends. What are the basic elements of friendship?

The first is acceptance. A friendship is composed of two people who accept each other. I may not fully understand you nor even like some things about you, but if I am prepared to accept you as a person and if you are prepared to accept me, then we have the basis of a friendship. This is what Jesus is saying to His followers.

By no stretch of the imagination can we believe that Jesus approved of everything He saw in the apostles. When Jesus called them friends He knew that Judas would betray Him, Peter would deny Him and the others, apart from John, would forsake Him in the hour of His greatest loneliness. They were far from perfect. He offers us that same friendship. Like them we do not have to be saints to be Jesus' friends at this moment. But we must be willing to accept Jesus for Who He is and to try to follow His commandments as the way to become saints.

A second element in friendship is respect. It should be easy for us to respect Jesus for He is faultless. But the astonishing thing is the respect He has for us. He always looked for the good in people. The last book of the Bible pictures Jesus standing at the door, knocking, waiting for someone to let Him in - that is the picture of the high regard He has for you and me. He will never kick down the door of our lives but simply offers His friendship and waits for us to respond.

Other elements of friendship are honesty and trust. Jesus practised openness with His friends. To study His life is to be impressed with His uncompromising commitment to truth. He would not deal in deception, not even to spare His own life.

Honesty is essential to friendship. No meaningful relationship can exist on a foundation of deceit. For you and me to be friends, we don't have to know everything there is to know about each other. We are not obliged to reveal all the secrets of our past lives. But we do need to feel that we can trust each other, share our joys and sorrows, discuss our problems, confide in each other, rely on each other's loyalty. We cannot build anything on lies. This is how we should feel towards Jesus because in our relationship with Him we must be honest with ourselves - He knows everything about us already, even our most secret thoughts and actions.

Jesus' offer of friendship is open and honest. He offers Himself. “Greater love has no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends.” Calvary is the clearest offer of friendship the world has ever seen. If we are willing to give to Jesus the same acceptance, respect, honesty and trust that He has given to us, it will be the beginning of a beautiful and lasting friendship.

Lord Jesus, thank You for calling us Your friends. We know You will never let us down. If only we would never let You down.