The Love of Friendship
I moved twice as a youngster. When I was nine my family moved from upstate New York to Western Kentucky, and when I was 13, my mom and I moved from Western Kentucky to suburban Detroit. When I was 20, I again moved, feeling compelled to transfer my academics back to Western Kentucky at Murray State University. And, with each of these moves, came new friends. Of course, beyond the moves themselves, there were the natural transitions of life that made a figurative revolving door of faces with far more of those coming and going than coming and staying. And through all of this, I've learned that friendships are usually built in and based on convenience rather than anything of consequence. For example, I've had friends because of a shared church, a shared class, a shared bus route, many shared sports teams, shared hobbies, and even a shared dorm room. Because of how superficially they were built, when the convenience has gone, so have the friendships.
I'm now 33 and even my longest-term friends, those who go back to elementary and middle school, don't hold the type of active place in my day-to-day that I wish they did. Jobs, children, time, and space get in the way. And it was through this prism that I recently read a passage of scripture that gave me incredible new insight into our Savior. Proverbs 18:24 says, "One who has unreliable friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
So I started thinking about all of my friends and whether I would deem them reliable. I started with my wife who is extremely reliable. Then my dad, again, very reliable. Then my brothers-in-law, and my other in-laws, each of whom is incredibly reliable. And then I thought of my close friends who are not bound to me by a family bond, and even those aforementioned who may have faded from center spotlight but remain as close as ever in my heart, and all of them would be classified as reliable too! I'm so fortunate. Sadly, they are probably more reliable than me.
Then, I stretched myself and thought about times when each of them did something I didn't like. I wasn't trying to paint them in a negative light, but a realistic one. They've all missed a phone call, had other plans, broken a promise, or just couldn't be exactly what I needed when I needed it. The common denominator being that everyone of them, in spite of their love and good intentions, are human. And humans are limited and flawed...that is, all except one--THE ONE!
The one that Solomon was referencing in his proverb was Jesus Christ. The friend of substance. The friend who has never failed. The friend who comes and stays. It's not only that he stays even when things get hard, but especially when they do. Like when the Israelites were thrown into the fiery furnace, he was there. Like when Daniel was thrown into the lions' den, he was there. Like when the storm raged and the disciples were terrified, he was there, and in all those circumstances, he was greater too!
And there is a deeper level that he goes to. His friendship is really highlighted in John 15:13 where it says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for his friends." And in his incredible love, he laid down his life so that we could all be saved. He is the rider on the white horse whose name is Faithful and True. He wants to come in and be that friend for each of us that sticks closer than a brother.
As we became resolved in starting this movement, it was the love of Jesus that inspired us. It's his love that guides us. And it's his love that is the model for us. If we follow it, if we can love the world around us as friends for whom we would give everything, then that love can, and will change the world.