It begins in kindergarten when every student in class is called “friend”. While the teacher attempts to develop the essential character traits of kindness and empathy, you can already hear the phrase, “You can be my friend if……” followed by “you play with me” or “you sit by me” or whatever other standard five-year-old children set.
As we all live through our teenage years, we realize friendships just get harder. They fluctuate rapidly, thanks to drama, mean people, clothing styles, interests, or the popular group. By the time we reach adulthood, it seems that we don’t expect to call many people “friend”.
We would like it to be easier, but friendship is hard—because we’re all working with sinful people (including ourselves). So when we think about Jesus, we think it might be easier. After all, he’s perfect. What’s so hard about being his friend? Well, to be his friend, he turns our focus to the people around us: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:12-14).
That makes friendship even harder! To be called Jesus’ friend, we should love others completely, without conditions. We forgive, even when we’re hurt. We put aside our self-centeredness in order to serve. We “lay down our lives” because our friend, Jesus, laid down his for us.
In this age of divisiveness and disrespect, we find it hard to forgive. We betray God. Children disrespect parents. We fail to suppress our personal pride. We need to submit to authority, not focus on our own pride and selfishness.
God provides the best example for “submission and forgiveness” in the models of “Christ and Church/ Husband and Wife” from Ephesians 5:21-6:4. Note: Submit means to take one’s proper role in God’s order and to lay aside one’s selfish intent. Excerpts:
Vs 21: Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ
Vs 22: Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord
Vs 25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her
Vs 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right
Vs 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children
All these verses instruct us to “submit” — love people, suppress our pride and self-centeredness, forgive others, work cooperatively, respect others — in our friendship of others. In today’s era of hysteria, lack of civility, disrespect, misuse of “cell-fish” social media, and hatred, let us pray for the model God gives us in Ephesians.