Friends of Jesus If...
Are you friends with Jesus? Perhaps this sounds like a strange question. We likely think more often of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and Savior of the World, or maybe we think of him as our family member, preparing a place in heaven for us. Jesus certainly holds all those roles, but did you know Jesus also refers to his followers as friends? He says in John 15:14, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
John 15 is a beautiful chapter about discipleship and relationship. In the middle of it, Jesus calls his followers "friends" and exhorts them to do what he commands. Following Jesus means that we are loved and that we belong. But it also means that we return his love by living in obedience to him.
A Friendship Marked by Obedience
“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Being Jesus’s friend isn’t a passive thing. True friendship never is. Sometimes it's tempting to live as though following Jesus means he does all the heavy lifting, and we just continue on our merry way. Granted, he has done the heavy lifting in that he has ransomed us from our sin and given us new life that we could never have on our own. Yet, at the same time, Jesus tells us that if we are his friends, we will obey.
What is it that we obey? What does he command? John 15:12 explains, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” If we claim a friendship with Jesus, it should be characterized by love—both being loved (Jn. 15:9) and giving love (Jn. 15:17).
After we come to know Jesus has loved us, we love him. We love him enough to be on his team, obeying what he has said and doing his work. And part of his work is loving people.
A Friendship Marked by Love
If we know and follow Jesus, our lives should be oriented not just around loving him, but also around loving his people, his other friends. This is no small task. Loving others is hard and messy at times. There will be times when we wish that Jesus meant only for us to love others when they’re being lovable. However, true friendship means loving others even when it’s hard. Jesus is clear that obeying his command to love one another is about loving sacrificially. He says right before our verse, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). Jesus’s friends are those who will put the needs of others before themselves.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the only way we show love is to literally die for one another. It does mean that we are willing to put our comfort aside to care for the needs of others. It means that we don’t pick and choose who we will love. Rather, we love those whom God puts in our path. It means that we ask for wisdom to know how to love others well. It means that we take the time to know one another well enough to love them genuinely. It means that we care for other believers even when it’s hard. And it does mean that we are willing to sacrifice all of ourselves for the sake of others, because that's what Jesus desires of us.
A Friendship Marked by Sacrifice
This kind of love sounds impossible. Who could love like this consistently? In fact, this kind of obedience is possible precisely because Jesus has first loved us. Jesus knows exactly what it means to lay down one’s life for a friend. He lived out John 15:13, laying his life down for his friends. He has modeled sacrificial love.
Jesus is the kind of friend who would descend from heaven to become a man, living with his friends. He is the kind of friend who, even though he never sinned, would willingly take on the sins of his friends. He died a sinner’s death to set us free from both the consequences of sin and the bondage to a sinful nature. Jesus is the kind of friend that would then get up from the dead, giving us the hope of the gospel and the promise of eternity.
Yes, Jesus does tell us there is a cost involved if we will follow him. But it is a cost he paid first. He first loved us and gave himself for us. He made the way for us to be able to love others. And when he commands us to love one another, he gives us everything we need to be able to do so.
The key to loving one another is to abide in Jesus’s love for us. Jesus teaches, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me" (Jn. 15:4). We abide in Jesus by believing the gospel. We abide by trusting in Jesus for every moment of every day. We abide by reading and believing the Word, that we might better know Jesus. We abide by praying, as prayer is how we talk to our great friend. And we abide by obeying, believing that what Jesus commands of us is good.
We don’t love others with sacrificial love out of begrudging duty or to earn God’s favor. We do it because we have first been loved by Jesus. When we abide in Jesus’ love, it transforms our hearts. The more that our hearts are transformed, the more our behavior changes too. His sacrificial love shows us what it means to be a friend. His love for us frees us up to love others.
A Friendship Marked by Fruit
Great benefits are ours when we do as Jesus commands and love other people. Obedience doesn’t just exhaust us and wear us down, as we might expect. Through obedience, we find joy -- the kind of joy that comes from doing what we were made to do and living in unity with our Savior. And when we abide in Jesus and obey his command to love one another, this is “bearing fruit.” “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:4). As we love Jesus’s friends, we can be assured that our friendship with him is genuine and secure.
As we abide in Jesus, he will give us the desire and ability to love others. And when we find ourselves loving other believers, especially when it’s hard, we can rest in the knowledge that we are indeed friends with Jesus. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” In these words lie both great challenge and great promise. Let’s be the kind of friends that Jesus asks for. Let’s love one another as he loves us.