Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Love that Calls Us Friends

To a four year old, every one he or she meets is a friend. Somehow that changed as children grew up. For a while friend was a word used very carefully. Then Facebook and MySpace changed all of that and now people have hundreds of "friends" through these social networking sights. In some ways it appears to retreat to the way things were for the four year old -- except that the four year old meant people he had met, played with, etc. Now some count as "Facebook Friends" people whom they have never met and probably never will.

I once wrote a hymn on Jesus' calling us friends. It has not proven to be one of my popular hymns (perhaps due to the tune, Resignation, which has not been a greatly used tune among Lutherans). It was based upon John 15:12-14.

The Love which calls us friends has come
To lead the strangers home;
The Love which comes from God alone,
Our Lord, to us, has shown.
Love lives in us; live in this Love
His one command keep true;
The friendship Christ brought from above
Live out in all you do.

He speaks of love and love He gives
In more than words supplies;
Death overwhelms and sin forgives -
restoring broken lives.
This is His joy - to call us friends -
For friendship crucified.
Our joy in contemplation spends
Of friendship Love supplied.

I fear that our watered down version of friendship makes it harder for us to understand what it means that Jesus calls us friends. His friendship is no distant relationship but an immediate presence. He calls us friends not because we share some interest or affinity but because He loves us -- and for this friendship He is willing to suffer and willing to die.

Friendship is a hard relationship. Friends are not for fair weather only but for the rockiest seas of life's changes and chances. Perhaps you have heard the radio ad about mental illness. In it a girl announces to her "friend" that she was diagnosed as bipolar. The "friend" responds that she will feel better if they do a little shopping. In the second situation, her friend responds, "I am there for you, girl." It always gives me pause -- friendship implies a relationship of giving and often our friendships are not ready for such demands. But Jesus' friendship is fully aware of and fully prepared to meet all the demands of loving us.

The Love that calls us friends has come... What a wonderful gift and blessing... Not that we call Him "friend" but that He IS our friend. Proven by the scars of His hands, feet, and side, He loves us with the love that empties so that we might be full. So it is our joy to spend our lives in contemplation of the friendship Love (Jesus) supplied...

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