Lessons learned from Jesus
In Genesis 1, God speaks about Creation then in Genesis 2:18 God says that it is ‘not good’ for Adam (or man) to be without relationship with other humans. This statement is bigger than the marriage relationship and applies to how God created us to live in relationship with others. Throughout the New Testament we are continually reminded to protect, preserve and guard unity because it is vital to living in community and relationship with others.
Jesus shows us the value he places on relationship through the commitment he shows to those around him.
Read John 15:12-15
Jesus affirms to the disciples he does not call them servants because the term does not fit the nature of their relationship, rather he calls them into relationship by reassuring them they are his friends. For us today relationships are vital for our lives, no one was meant to do life alone. Healthy relationships bring encouragement, love, sharing, a different perspective and life experience.
There are different levels of friendship
Jesus had a lot of different friends and he was closer with some than others.
• Peter, James and John were his closest friends. He spent extra time with them and shared things with them he didn’t with his other friends.
• The twelve disciples he called his ‘friends’. They did life together.
• He had lots of other followers who he also considered friends – Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
• Notice that Jesus had friends with the opposite sex too – Mary, Martha, etc. These were clearly ‘platonic’ rather than ‘romantic’.
• He also had lots of other people he knew and was acquainted with – tax collectors and people from all walks of life.
Close friendships will face difficulties
The test of authenticity within our relationships and friendships are shown through our commitment to resolving conflict when an offence has occurred. Jesus had two friends who really let him down (Judas who betrayed him and Peter who denied him) and, in fact all of his friends deserted him in his moment of deepest pain. In the same way, our friends can let us down too.
Jesus loved his friends so much that he was willing to talk about the issues (loving confrontation), yet he also chose to forgive them and preserve the friendship.
We too need to learn to forgive others and rebuild our friendships at times. Sometimes a friendship may never be the same again, especially if the other person doesn’t change (e.g. Judas), while others can actually grow stronger through difficult times (e.g. Peter).
Being a good friend
Jesus was a great friend.
• He loved his friends.
• He enjoyed his friends – he spent time with them.
• He prayed for his friends (Jn.17).
• He sacrificed for his friends – put their needs first.
To follow Jesus’ example on being a good friend, here are some practical and hopefully thought provoking things we can do to be a better friend.
Start by being friendlier to everyone, out of your many acquaintances will come closer friends. This takes time, effort and sacrifice. Avoid 'clique' attitudes that exclude people but seek opportunities to meet new people and include them in. Expand your circle of friends. See each person you meet as a 'divine appointment'. Ask questions, listen and show interest. Have an attitude of acceptance and seek to help others.
Prov 17:17. A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. NIV
Prov 18:24. A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. NIV
(Also see Eccl 4:9-12, Luke 6:31)
Take a moment over the next few days to contact your close friends and thank them for their friendship.
If you feel that there has been some distance created within your friendships do your best to re-establish those relationships (Romans 12:18).
1. How effective do you feel your relationships are?
2. Discuss some keys to developing friendships (i.e. from acquaintance to close friend).
3. How did Jesus respond to his friends when they disappointed him? What can we learn from this encounter?
4. Discuss one thing we can all do to develop healthier friendships.
Finish with a time of prayer together; pray for unity, stronger relationships and particularly families and marriages.