First Mennonite Church
November 11, 2018
You Are My Friends
Text: John 15:9-17
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 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. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Friends. Who are they? Once a teacher asked his young students to define what a friend is and this is how the students responded:
A friend is someone who walks with you in the good times and in the bad times.
A friend does not judge you but listens to you patiently.
A friend is someone you can trust everything without feeling ashamed or guilty.
A friend is always there for you when you need help.
The first lines of the Girl Scout song, Make New Friends, go:
“Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” 
Samuel Johnson, the British lexicographer, wrote: “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.” Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
We all live surrounded by people, but many of the people we live with are not by choice. I could not choose my parents and for that matter neither my siblings, yet I had to live with them. We are here in church and although we can say it is by choice, yet the main reason is because we all hold something in common, which is our faith. More often than not, the people we associate with are not the people we call our friends, per se. They might be our coworkers, people who share a common interest with us: they might be book lovers, stamp collectors, farmers, athletes, etc. Although, as it happens in many cases, the people we associate with eventually become our friends. But usually, we choose those who we want as our friends.
Who are your friends? Who comes to mind and who can you say is your best or closest friend? It would be interesting if got to hear everyone’s story about how each established his or her long lasting friendship with someone. One my closest friends lives in Atmore, Alabama. We have been friends since childhood. Wadi and I went through primary school, moving from grade to grade together. He was and still is a very smart person. In school, he never wasted a single space in the pages of his notebook; in Belize we call notebooks “exercise books.” Wadi used every page, from corner to corner of his exercise book. But Wadi was almost always late to school. The teacher used to call him “late Johnny.” When I started attending the Mennonite Church in our little town, I found that Wadi’s dad was the pastor. So, our friendship became even closer. We attended the same church. Some years ago, Wadi visited us here in Paso Robles. And during a conversation we had around the table, the topic of our earliest memories of our friendship popped up. And he told his side of the story and I shared mine. The first time I remember meeting Wadi was one day when my parents left my other siblings and me at my grandparents’ house. The neighbors of my grandparents are Wadi’s relatives. Wadi was visiting with his cousins and one of them was also one of my friends, Fernando, –now he is my brother-in-law. Anyway, that afternoon my grandmother sent me to buy something in the nearby grocery store and on my way to the store, my friend Fernando, started to chase me and Wadi joined him. (Kids in the countryside used to do things like that.) I ran as fast as I could, but Wadi got me and I tumbled down on the road. I got my knees skinned. (Let me just say that my grandmother was not happy with what happened to me.) When I told Wadi that story about my memory of my first encounter with him, he felt sorry he did that and apologized. He said he did not remember the incident. When Wadi got married in 1992 in Atmore, AL, he asked me to be his best man. Even to this day we keep in touch with each other. We continue being close friends.
Jesus said to his disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
The kind of friendship Jesus was establishing with his disciple was modeled after his relationship with the Father. It was a relationship grounded in love demonstrated through obedience. Jesus was immersed in the love of the Father. Jesus’ very coming into the world is described as an act of God’s love for the world. On two occasions a voice from heaven revealed Jesus was the beloved Son in whom God was well pleased.
According to Jesus, he abode in the love of his Father by fulfilling his commission. In other words, Jesus demonstrated his love for the Father by doing the will of his Father. According to Jesus’ example, the only way one can demonstrate one’s love for God is by obeying what he commands. Thus, for the disciples, the only way they were to demonstrate their love for Jesus would be by obeying his commandment as well. The disciples could have preached, prayed and or even performed miracles, but those activities would not have guaranteed that they loved Jesus or were remaining in him. So in order to clarify what Jesus was saying to his disciples, he said, “You are my friends, if you do what I command you.” And, “This is my command: Love each other.”
In 2Chronicles 20, Abraham is called a friend of God. And in Exodus 33, 11 we read that the LORD spoke with Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Each of these men not only loved God, but they obeyed God despite the challenge their obedience demanded of them. Abraham left everything to follow God’s lead. Abraham was about to offer his only son when God tested his obedience. As for Moses, he had to confront the most powerful man on earth—the Egyptian Pharaoh. Moses had to patiently endure the complaints and insults of a large and angry people. There is no doubt that Abraham and Moses loved God. Their obedience to God’s demands and commandments demonstrated their great love for God. And both these men gained insight into the heart of God. And that was exactly what Jesus offered his disciples. “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus promised his disciples to reveal the heart of God to them.
Jesus wants to “friend” us, using Facebook jargon. As you know, friends open up their hearts to one another. Friends share intimately. Friends take care of one another. Proverbs says, “Friends stick closer than a brother.” (18:24) And Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus in fact died for his friends and to make us his friends as well.
Jesus’ offer and invitation are still open to us today: “You are my friends if you do what I command. . . And this is my command, that you love one another.”
Speaking about doing what Jesus commands, which is obeying the commandment of loving others, let me paraphrase what Robin Meyers writes. In his book, Spiritual Defiance, Meyers points out the inconsistency Christians often have between believing and obeying. He says that many Christians are so careful about having the right set of beliefs, as if the greatest devotion one can have for God is by having the correct set of beliefs. And the inconsistency lies in this: Christians say that the God of love they worship in the end will reward them for believing the right stuff about Jesus, even if he will have to forgive them for not practicing love as he demands, but that this same God of love will punish a person with eternal damnation because he/she failed to believe the right stuff, even if that person spent his or her entire life loving and serving others. Robin Meyers says, if we were to realize the severity of this inconsistency it would make us recall the shortest verse of the Bible: “Jesus wept.”
Among friends there are no secrets. Among friends there is unfailing love. Friends take care of one another, even to the point of putting self at risk. How close a friendship do you have with the best of all friends—Jesus Christ? Do you know what is in his heart for you? Can you dare to confide in him your sorrows, joys, and hopes? Do you strive to love even to the point of putting others first? Let us remember that our abiding in the love of the Lord is demonstrated by our obedience to his commandment. So once again, Jesus says to us: You are my friends, if you do what I command you. And this is my command, that you love one another. Amen!
 See: Robin Meyers, Spiritual Defiance: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance (Yale. New Heaven, 2015) 76.