"But I have called you friends, because everything that I have heard from my Father I have revealed to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and your fruit should remain, in order that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. These things I command you: that you love one another." John 15:15b-17 LEB
We often lament in this broken and lost world that we are 'winging it' because there is no manual of absolutes that bring us hard and undeniable evidence, facts and directions in which to tackle the hard questions of life. This 'winging it' attitude has led to the 'universal, tolerable and co-existent' attitude of the modern day where we can no longer stand for something because we have to fall for everything. We no longer believe, as the atheists have 'reasoned', in an absolute truth because we, as humans, are only capable of a changing and evolving subjective truth. Society's strongest dictate society's truths. And that truth can be manipulated and changed by changing the society it inhabits.
The Church has tried in the past to confront this dysfunctional view; both by refusing to wade into the cesspool of such corruption and trying to provide hastily fashioned 'islands of leadership' where one might 'pull themselves' out of the muck and by wading into it with the intentionally of being friendly without accountability and directionality…….what has come about is a 'universal, co-exist' movement that is intolerant of absolutes and tolerant of anything goes so long as you are friendly in your disagreements.
This is not the model of friendship that has been given us, nor the example that was lived by the Head of the Christian Church. The uncorrupted view is a harsh-defined, no-wiggle room version of friendship that cannot be simply picked up on Sunday mornings and donned like a suit, nor fashioned in such a way as to fit the user. The model of true friendship, while far beyond the ability of humanity to emulate perfectly, can be attained through the impartation of the Spirit within and reflected through the personal, intimate and deep relationship one has with its author, Master and Finisher; Jesus Christ. If we try to be friendly on our own, as has been our wont and our nature, we have the friendliness of self rather than the selfless nature of true friendship.
The example of friendship, while represented throughout the Gospels through Christ's life, is highlighted in the Gospel of John, the Beloved of Christ…..because, honestly, friendship is love….a love so selfless, so driven and so untamed that it knows no limit, no hesitation and no cost that cannot be reached that would cause it to be withheld. Agape love……unconditional, uncontrollable and uncontained.
It is the kind of love that we, no matter if we are baby Christians freshly washed in the blood or mature Christians with the honor scars of many years of faithful kingdom fighting, cannot give on our own, because we are by our sinful old nature protective of ourselves, but because of our deep, abiding and intimate relationship with Christ are able to extend beyond our limitations because of the unlimited condition of the love realized in Christ and borne daily in our interaction with Him through the Spirit. It is a absolute expression of friendship, incorruptible by humanity's shallow friendly nature.
There are some things of this absolute friendship that I'd like to touch on, although I cannot be totally inclusive of all its aspects……it is not for me to tell you everything but to point out a few waypoints in which your personal journey can go, as garnered from my personal experience.
Because, as I've said, I have been blessed with some spiritual friendships that have awed me as well as humbled me in the recent eight or nine months that I have been under God's discipleship in this area.
The first frame in the structure of Absolute friendship is transparency.
Christ tells us that He no longer called us slaves because honestly the relationship that He desires and pursues with each of us who claim Him cannot happen in the context of Master and slave. Our level of intimacy dictates our level of understanding of Christ, His purpose for us and our maturity in the Spirit to emulate Him. And, such knowledge cannot come from blind obedience that is built on fear but from an awareness and desire to reflect the mercy, compassion and love that we ourselves have come to be 'schooled' in through direct, deep and personal contact with Christ. And such contact is not hidden, God is wide open to us…..but we must pursue that awareness and understanding to obtain its fruit and be bearers of it in this world. Our friendships, while incapable of perfection, are open and honest…..our desire to reach our 'unchurched' or 'irreligious' friends as pure as our realization of our own need to be saved. Our friendships are, even among our 'churched' friends, are as free from agendas and protective distance as we are deeply connected with Christ; the more we are aware of such 'conditions' within our friendship with the Lord, the more we can reflect faithfully its transparency in our lives.
Another frame in Absolute Friendship's framework is intention.
Friendship doesn't happen by default, though we tend to collect the various levels of friends – especially in the age of the internet and distant interactions – like disposable items. Absolute friendships are as diverse as they are unique; neither being totally of one mindset or 'religious persuasion' but rather an intentional collection of people who are intimately personal and intentionally pursuing each other for the greater purpose of bearing the loads and pains of this life not because of a singularly desired protective nature but because of a singularly desire to being a source of comfort, accountability and growth to those whom share this title for the agenda of 'all should have eternal life' not through force-feeding but representational living of the Absolute friendship and Truth of Christ. It is seeking out those who are lost, found, sick and healthy for the intentional living of a life worthy of the example set forth by Christ, especially for those of us who claim His name and title ourselves followers, disciples and friends of His. It isn't seeking out those who will bolster our own opinions, desires and wants but seeking out those who are different from us as to challenge and hone our faith because of their own intentional seeking towards the common purpose of Truth. It is being a friend that a friend would like to have, as the song goes. It is having friends who comfort us, who challenge us and who hold us accountable…..to our own declared relationship with Christ and not our demand to hold them accountable to what we demand.
The third frame of the structure of Absolute friendship I'd like to touch on is timelessness.
Being part of the intentional family of Christ, body of the Kingdom building to which we as brothers and sisters of God's family are called to be active in, requires and evolves as our purposes are coalesced into sharp, crisp definitions through the shaping and molding of His hands……necessitating a constantly changing circle of contact, relational impact and physical interaction as we follow His call into mission fields both domestic and foreign…..but Absolute friendship is, as the timeless classic of Michael W. Smith tells us, 'a lifetime.' The intentionality, transparent and deep friendships that are born of the example set forth by Christ are not bound by the linear progression of this world or by the constant physical orbit of those in its embrace but is forever capable of its best as God's purpose for each of us brings us back into the ebb and flow of our friends' lives, because the commonality of the 'nails' that hold the framework together knows no time limit, bears an eternal remembrance of its embrace and desires at the opportunities to progress its awareness to deeper waters……
Because Absolute friendships are all about the driving, unconditional and passionate love that is a 'laying down of one's life for another'……as expressed in John 15:13.
It is a love that has been felt to the degree that it has to be reflected in a transparent nature faithfully and unconditionally to others by an agenda-less desire to show them the love we ourselves have come to understand because of our own emersion into its depths.
It is a friendship that holds ourselves accountable so that others may be accountable, requires intentional seeking in darkness with light, and unconditional surrender in the face of self-destruction.
This is the example that bears out throughout the life of the ultimate Friend………
"What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!..................."