Who Do You Surround Yourself With?
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 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. John 15: 9-13
Near the end of her long life, my mother pared down her advice-giving to what she considered most important: Love God. Pray often. Cherish your family and friends.
Near the end of his short life, shortly before his death, Jesus urged his disciples to remain in his love and commanded them to love each other as he had loved them. And he explained: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Now that I am “not yet old, no longer young” as the hymn says, I know that you don’t have to actually die to lay your life down. Any time we sacrifice our desires for those of another, we lay down our lives. This “dying to self” can be all-encompassing, as when a family member becomes the caregiver for a relative with dementia.
And it can be smaller, as when we set aside our plans when a friend needs to be listened to at length, asks for a ride after a late-night car problem or needs a hand-holder while a loved one is in surgery. We can do these things because this is what friends do for each other.
Earlier in her life, my mother urged me to choose my friends carefully. I understand her wisdom now. Our friends help to shape our character; the best ones keep us on right paths.
Jesus chose his friends, his first disciples, carefully. They were a diverse group of men who shared three years of highs and lows, triumphs and sorrows, with Jesus. They loved Jesus to the end of his life on earth and beyond; many did actually lay down their lives for him when they were martyred for their faith and teaching.
Friendship is one of God’s best gifts and Christian friendship is a special blessing: it has the power to transform us. When we share our love of Jesus, we deepen our faith. We can be our authentic, vulnerable selves to each other, and we can challenge plans and behaviors that would move our friend away from God. And because God has forgiven us, Christian friends can forgive each other, as deep friendship inevitably requires.
There is a brick in the patio south of Sheridan’s Family Life Center that quotes Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times.” In this time of social distancing, the flavor of our friendships has changed. But we need our Christian friends more than ever, to help us stay connected to Jesus and to bear good fruit in this strange time.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Christian friendship. Help me to be a good friend, worthy of the love my friends give to me. Amen.
Written by Cheryl Stubbendieck
Cheryl Stubbendieck is a member of Sheridan’s Devotion Writing Team. She was the public relations department head for Nebraska Farm Bureau before retiring in 2012. She and her husband Jim are the editors of a quarterly journal about antique side-by-side shotguns and Cheryl is the co-leader of Sheridan’s new Card Makers group. Their family includes their son Aaron and his wife Chaitra of San Francisco, CA, and their son Reed of Madison, WI.