“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
— John 15:15 NASB
In December 2019, after 25 years of living in Croatia, Jayne and I moved to Birmingham, Alabama to help care for aging and struggling family members. The decision to move back to the U.S., made 6 months before, was not a particularly hard decision to make. Our reality and the needs of others were pretty straightforward, and the Lord seemed to be confirming His leading through it all. The process of leaving, on the other hand, was excruciating.
There was the moment of stunned silence when we told our church leadership we had served with for so many years. There’s no easy way to tell hard news. The church wasn’t exactly in a great place, and the timing wasn’t the best. “God, why are you calling us to leave now?” I often wondered in those months following the decision.
Then there was the older neighbor lady who started yelling at me when I told her we were leaving. Compassion allowed me to understand that she was spewing hurt and not take it personally, but it was painful being told that we were abandoning her. “God, why did she never place her faith in You after all these years we’ve been witnessing to her?”
Finally, there were the myriad of people we had met through the ministry whom we now called “friend.” Some of them we had met when they were in their teens; now they were in their 40’s. As we visited with groups and individuals to say goodbye, my head swirled with images – how we had met, times of praying together, times of conflict, times of reconciliation, times of serving together – all of these moments creating a culture of friendship. There were lots of tears, but there was also a lot of laughter as we recounted together our shared past.
And then our life journeys diverged. Yes, our paths would cross again, but crossing paths is not walking the same path. Our life has taken a turn and we will not turn back. Our shared past is now a memory.
Jesus started preparing His friends for His departure long in advance, not that they understood what He was referring to. Part of their preparation was Jesus identifying them as friends. “I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” There’s something in His declaration that helps give significance to the term friend. “All things …” there’s no secrecy, only intimacy. “I heard … I made known,” there’s no “lording over,” only empowerment. “I called you … I made known to you,” Jesus initiated inclusion and belonging. If there ever was doubt in their minds of His affection, now there could be none.
Is there any doubt in your mind of Jesus’ affection and friendship towards you? Sometimes I feel that because I, at times, irritate and disappoint my human friends that Jesus gets aggravated and disappointed with me. Why does it slip my mind that Jesus already knows all things, has paid for all things, and has already declared me free from condemnation? Why does it slip my mind that Jesus calls me His friend? And more importantly, why does it slip my mind that my friend Jesus will never leave me nor forsake me? He is a friend who doesn’t need to relocate when family is in need. And therein lies my hope: He is with me and He isn’t going anywhere.
ACTION: Take a minute and sit with your friend, Jesus. Slowly, bring to mind the attributes of friendship with Jesus and one-by-one reflect on a time in your life when He exhibited that attribute with you. What happens in your spirit as you reflect on those moments of friendship with Jesus?