what do you think of when you hear that word? do you think of your facebook page? do you think of that classic 80's michael w. smith song sung by youth groups everywhere? do you picture jennifer aniston and matt leblanc?
chances are you probably don't think of Jesus. maybe you think of your high school days, when you were "rollin' with your homies" so to speak. maybe you think of that summer in college when you had the best group of friends. or maybe you think of someone special, someone you love to catch up with over a cup of coffee, or on a long phone conversation. there's any number of images or people that come to mind. but probably none of those images are pictures of Jesus.
he calls us friends.
hold on a second.
did you catch that? i mean, did you really catch it? let's make sure we're all getting this: the son of God, the One who was there at the creation of music and zebras and colors; the One who loved this whole shebang enough to let it go, and then give everything to get it back; that One calls you friend. "i no longer call you servants," says Jesus in the gospel of john, "but i now call you friends. just as the Father has loved me, i'm asking that you also love one another. and that's how people will know that we are friends; that will be the evidence of our friendship - that you love one another."
so the God of all creation, the Lord of hosts, the King of kings, the first and last, the great 'i am' wants to be friends with me?
does that mean God will be able to see all my facebook photos? maybe i'd better check my privacy settings.
or maybe, just maybe, this goes way beyond facebook friends. maybe this is more than just a contact or an acquaintance. maybe Jesus really means friend. maybe john really meant what he wrote, that Jesus was calling us 'beloved.' that we are loved by this prophet and teacher. and that he is asking us to revel in that love. he wants us to rejoice in it. he wants us to plop right down in the thickness of that love and make snow angels in it until our muscles ache and we our stomachs hurt from laughing. he wants us to enjoy it and appreciate it and celebrate it and stop living like those who are dying of thirst next to a fresh spring of cool water. love is here. love is alive. the One who made water and snow and laughter is lavishing it upon us. if only we would receive it.
and not only that. but he wants us to share it. he wants us to take a look around and see who is being left outside this circle of friends, and invite them in, to draw the circle wider. he wants us to take our inside jokes and share them with others, and make new inside jokes with even more people and more people until we're all holding our sides.
"what a friend we have in Jesus," the old hymn says. but most of us live like the lyric is "what a judge we have in Jesus," or "what a drag we have in Jesus," or "what a list of rules we have in Jesus." but that is not what the master said. he said, "i don't call you servants anymore. instead, i call you my friends; i call you beloved, because i love you intensely and unconditionally. now go and live like it, making friends out of outsiders and enemies, until your throats are hoarse from laughter and your hearts are overflowing and your lives are abundant in ways you couldn't have imagined."
i want to be that kind of friend. to God. and to you.