In Jesus’ closing words to his disciples he says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” He sets a very high standard for true friendship and love when he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:14, 13)
Tradition indicates that Jesus spent about three years with his disciples, traveling together throughout Israel, as he taught them and others by word and example about God the Father and the kingdom of God that Jesus was inaugurating. We Christians and followers of Jesus are the beneficiaries of God’s kingdom and the example of Christian friendship that Jesus lived and demonstrated.
For the past thirty-five years I have experienced the blessing of close Christian friendship with a group of men, some of whom are in the adjacent picture (boating on the Potomac last week). We usually get together one evening a week to share what’s going on in our lives, pray with one another for various needs and enjoy each other’s company.
Sometimes we study and reflect on a particular scripture, review a spiritual related book or discuss what’s going on in the Church and the world. Over the years, we have assisted each other with various house or yard projects. When one of us is hospitalized, we visit and pray with the person. A few years ago, we were at one of the brother’s hospital bedside, reading his favorite scripture and singing his favorite hymns as he passed from this life to the next.
We celebrate birthdays and special anniversaries, and socialize with each other’s families from time to time. One of the brothers and his wife has a birthday dinner every year for our special needs daughter and her friends.
Catholic lay theologian and author Scott Hahn observes that while we may be the most connected society ever from an electronic standpoint, we are the most unconnected when it comes to genuine friendships and the pervasive loneliness that exists.
Friendship usually results when two or more people seek to associate with one another because of certain things they have in common. It may be a shared interest in work, recreational pastimes, sporting events, enjoying the same hobby or other common activity or interest.
When I experienced the renewal of my Christian faith through the power of the Holy Spirit almost forty years ago, I was struck with how much in common I would feel with someone who had a similar born again Christian experience. It didn’t matter whether we were Catholic or Protestant, I would feel a kinship and excitement as we shared our experiences of the Lord and his word.
It is no small thing for the Spirit of the living God to dwell in us as he offers to do through his Holy Spirit. (See John 14:15-24) Coming to know others who share the impact of this common experience gives rise to beautiful, committed friendships — part of God’s desire and plan for all of us.