“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends . . .
you are my friends . . . love one another.” (John 15:12-17)
JESUS CALLED his disciples friends, but that friendship came at a price, he said, since he was not the type to sugarcoat things. They were going to have to love each other. They were going to have to forgive each other. And they were going to have to make sacrifices as Jesus made and would soon be making, even to the last full measure — which he was already hinting at: his life.
Patience and grace
Friendship looks like many things. Depending upon the circumstances and the particular season of life, in youth and in age, friendship may be laughter and it may be weeping, or giving, or taking, holding, or letting go. Friendship is rehearsed vulnerability. It is capable of suffering grief, hardship, and misunderstanding, and it can rejoice in the great achievements and honors of another.
Formed of trust, friendships can be flawed by failure, even irreparably broken. Or they can be restored through reconciliation, and remembered as golden. Jesus knew the human hearts of his loved ones. He knew that lasting friendship was a long walk down the road in an artful practice requiring patience and grace.
I Have Called You Friends
I have called you friends, says Jesus,
but there are times no one would ever guess it —
friends of each other, friends of mine.
You call each other names.
You impugn each other’s honor.
You covet the best assignment
and the most gratifying credit
even when you are working for yourselves.
Forgiveness and reconciliation
get lost in the turmoil of your quarrels.
Friends make the most successful enemies
when they lose touch with each other,
when they lose touch with me, says Jesus.
Nonetheless, I have called you friends.
— Thomas John Carlisle (American, 1913-1992)
Some friendships, especially in youth, span only a particular time in life before they fade into memory when circumstances change. Someone moves away, or changes jobs, or schools, or interests. But they can still be remembered and appreciated.
Other friendships are lifelong . . . and beyond. David Whyte reflects:
Friendship transcends disappearance: an enduring friendship goes on after death, the exchange only transmuted by absence, the relationship advancing and maturing in a silent internal conversational way even after one half of the bond has passed on.
Worth the risk
Some friendships are celebrated in ritual. Things done together, like Friday morning phone calls, taking annual trips, golfing, walking, sewing, eating, or even talking on the phone. “The fifth cup of tea between friends is the best,” according to the Chinese proverb, but it’s not about the tea.
Other friendships thrive in spontaneous encounter. In the store, say, or at the theater, but these are generally untested, until one person takes a risk and opens up. It’s worth the risk.
lord stand by my friends
stand by my friends
so that they might bear with me
without renouncing me
so that they might love me on account of my weakness
and warn me
when i feel strong
and stand by them
so that they might distinguish the one from the other
— SAID (b. 1947, Iranian)
With the breath of kindness
I am thankful for the many friends I have. And I can see across the years how, in many instances both small and large, I could have been a better friend in my own actions. And I can pray, Lord, thank you for being my friend. Help me to be a better friend to others and forgiving of them as you are of me.
A friend is one to whom you can pour out all the contents of your heart, grain and chaff together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take it and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
— Arabian proverb
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