Friendship is a very beautiful thing. It is a great source of joy in our lives and an opposition to loneliness. Whether or not we admit it, I believe that we are all very scared of being lonely, of being without family or friends. It is a wonderful thing to be able to share with others what you enjoy and a valuable thing to be able to open up, speak to others about ourselves.
After seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in performance over a month ago I was hit by the sheer strength of the relationships on which the play centred around. Friendship was at the heart of the play, just as it played so great a role in the Harry Potter books.
In this society it seems that friendship is often undervalued. We all see great worth in friendship and yet too often it is sacraficed for something less significant, for the pursuit of our own desires or for another person, a possibility. Friendship often takes a back seat in our minds, we look at what we are missing and forget the beautiful thing that we have. A true friend is a companion, a support, someone to share your life with and someone to whom you can give, can show your love.
Having grown up reading and watching Harry Potter I learnt many values of friendship, I was given three wonderful friends whom the narrative followed and who, in my lonliest times became my friends. A support, an inspiration, a reminder that I was not truly alone. I saw loyalty in each of the golden trio, saw how Ron and Hermion walked by Harry through some of his darkest times, saw the lengths of danger to which Harry would and dos to go to save Ginny, to save Sirius, to save his friends, his family. And to me, this shows that a very important part of friendship is sacrifice.
Alone, one may perhaps follow their own path, do as they please. In a friendship, it is important to love one another, to put our own desires to the side and focus on our friend, on what is best for them. A friendship is at its strongest when both sides give, when they make sacrafices for the other and do not hope only to receive.
And this leads me, of course, to Jesus. Jesus gave us more than any of us can ever give in return. Jesus died on the cross, died for us as a substitution, so that we may be forgiven and find eternal life with him. Jesus himself had no sin, and yet he sacraficed himself so that we could be freed from our sin. All he did was give. Every miracle He did was for the sake of others, not for his own. As Jonty, the pastor at The Globe Church, excellently put it, Jesus had all the power of the universe and all he did with it was give.
And I was reminded last week, by wonderful teaching throughout Carey Family Conference, a Christian retreat in Shropshire, of how we should respond to such a beautiful love. As Jesus teaches us: ‘as I have loved you, love one another’ (John 13:34). We are called into loving obedience, called into taking the commands that Jesus had given us and following him. And yet here, he commands not for his own gain, but for the sake of others, he commands us not to serve him blindly, but to love others as he so wonderfully loves us, to give the same brilliant friendship that he has given us.
Because I think that we need friendship, whether this comes in family, in classmates, in colleagues or in the church, and I believe that Jesus is the best friend that we could have. Recently I listened to a sermon by The Globe Church on the letter written by Jude in Bible, the penultimate book of the New Testament. It was based mainly upon the first verse only:
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for[a] Jesus Christ…
Jonty brought three words out of this verse and with them showed us what Jesus has down for us. We are ‘called’, we are ‘loved’ and we are kept’.
God calls us, he looks for us. When Adam and Eve hid from God in shame, God called out to them. In the same way, as we hide from God, he continues to call for us, to call us to him. And he calls us to him through Jesus who, on the cross, gave himself up so that he could know us, so that we could be his friends just as the disciples became.
And what greater proof of Jesus’ love for us is there than the fact that he sacrificed himself for us. To paraphrase John Owen, ‘the greatest unkindness you could do to God, is to not believe his love for you’. Espicially considering the amazing truth that Jesus does not love us for our works, he loves us because he chose to love us, he chose to make you his friend.
And we are kept, we are protected by Jesus’ love for us. When the Father looks at us, He does not see our own inadequacies, our own failings, He sees Jesus, because Jesus has taken the punishment for our sin, he has taken hold of our hand, and walked us through death so that we can enjoy eternal life with him.
So after everything Jesus has done for us, is it really so hard to take up his command, to love one another as he has loved us?
And remember this:
‘We love because he first loved us.’ 1 John 4:19
God gave us friendship, he gave us companionship and he has given us love. And how, after having been given all of this, can we turn away from him? We are called to be brothers and sisters in Christ, to take the love that Jesus has shown us, and to show it to one another.