“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. John 15:11-15 MSG
A picture of friends, captured at a funeral. The lovely young woman in the middle, with the infant child, had just lost her mother. The three childhood friends, surrounding her with hugs, have traveled miles to show her love. The love of loyal friends who had a yearning to give tender touches, eye contact, words, silence, compassion, encouragement and most of all, presence. The moment captured by a cell phone proclaims a statement of an enduring sincere love that will reach through eternity.
Their friendship began as children who learned about Jesus together. Their love is social; physical, touchable, and personal. Their love is spiritual; unspoken, soul connecting, bonding them as sisters united by the love of Christ.
This kind of loyal friendship, rooted in the love of God, allows us to experience the presence of God’s anchoring care. A loss so profound, a loving mother now physically absent, can leave a daughter with a lonely ache in her heart. Friends cannot replace the love of another’s precious mother, but their fellowship can restore life in her heart. Her heart pain can feel known, and the sense of loyal connection demonstrates she is never alone.
As friends of Jesus as the passage in John emphasizes we are in turn to show this loving friendship to others. The word friend in this passage is from the Greek phílos meaning;
a friend; someone dearly loved (prized) in a personal, intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection. Note: The root (phil-) conveys experiential, personal affection – indicating 5384 (phílos) expresses experience-based love.
Experiential is something that is personally known, observed and encountered. As followers, of Christ, we are friends of Christ who put his life on the line for us. He has commanded that we love each other in the same way. It is the mark of Christian love.
What we have seen and [ourselves] heard, we are also telling you, so that you too may realize and enjoy fellowship as partners and partakers with us. And [this] fellowship that we have [which is a distinguishing mark of Christians] is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah). 1 John 1:3 (amp)
Our relationship with God, through His Son, is made strong as we trust His friendship and profound love. This connection impacts our soul, which creates neurological changes in our brains. We can then, “do love” in friendship as His love flows through us. We become friends who can:
Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (AMP)
God, the creator of the universe, has created our physical brains to be joyfully responsive to this relational connection. The book Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson, M.D. brings to light information how aspects of neuroscience point to God and affirm what believers have been living out as a community of faith for thousands of years.
“I believe our lives will be abundant, joyful, and peaceful only to the degree that we are engaged, known, and understood by one another. I also believe we cannot separate what we do with our brains and our relationships from what we do with God. God has designed our minds, part of his good creation to invite us into a deeper, more secure, more courageous relationship with him and with one another.”
Facing the adversities of life alone and disconnected can become a burden we were not meant to endure. As humans, God’s creation, we desire to be known and fear to be alone. Positive changes in the brain occur as we feel known by another. We are wired to be relational!
The huddled hugging group of friends in the picture is a demonstration of being known by each other and making the friend connection a priority. To be known by friends is a treasure of life that gives life to our being. “And friends are friends forever If the Lord’s the Lord of them” are words from an old song by Michael W. Smith that celebrates this treasure that is a gift from God.