Are you a Friend?

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Today’s Scripture: John 15

John 15:12-14
12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 

I don’t know about you, but for me, this is a tall order. I mean, I love the fact that Jesus loves me and that he actually laid down his life for me. I figure that makes me his friend. He says so! But then he says that I have to do what he commands, if I am truly his friend. So that means I must love others in the same way he has loved me.

That’s the part that gives me pause, daily. I don’t mind loving the people who are like me (mostly), namely those who think like me, who worship like me, who like the same songs I do. It’s easy to love them, although I’m not sure I would lay down my life for them. (Not all of them anyway!) I’m thankful that I am commanded to do it for my friends, at least. So, who is my friend? Who is my neighbor? Are they the same, and should I treat them the same? When I think about all the different ways people love and serve Jesus, can I love them as he loves me?

I grew up in a great neighborhood in West Toledo: lots of families and lots of kids around my age to play with, most of them Catholic. We were Protestant, and it was always interesting to note the differences in the way we thought we were supposed to worship God. I remember that the Catholics had rules and traditions that we thought were kind of weird and very different from the way our church did things.

I learned a lot about God and Jesus in Sunday school, but I never heard about the need to have a personal relationship with God. Neither, as far as I could tell, did my neighborhood friends. When I became a Christian, I had a real prejudice toward both traditions, wondering how they could have avoided these basic truths: that we must be born again (John 3:3), and then we should follow Jesus.

As I matured in my faith, I came to realize that people of both traditions have the capacity for a relationship with Jesus. Maybe it didn’t look the same as the way I had chosen, but it was no less valid than my path. I am grateful that God was patient with me, that he put godly people of different faith traditions in my life to witness the overriding, overwhelming power of Jesus in order to expand my concept of what it means to follow him.

I want to be his friend. I want to do what he commands: to love the people he loves and to lay down my life for them, any time, any day. I especially want to know and love those who know and love Jesus in a different way than I do. I have learned much from them, and I’m sure there is much more God has in store for me!

How have you sensed the call of God to love those he loves, even when they are different from you? What have you done about it?

Next Steps:
The next time (check your watch!) God calls you to represent him as the God of love to your neighbor, do it! Invite that person to dinner! Invite him or her to church! Be present in whatever the person may be going through that day.

Lord of all, I thank you for your loving invitation to each of us who calls you Father. You invite us into the adventure of loving those you love, no matter where they come from. Help us to invite them into the purpose-filled life that comes from loving and following you. Grant me the desire and the courage to love each one you bring into my life. Amen.

This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.

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