Friendship: It’s a Set-up!

by Lester Young

Let’s talk about friendship. When you stop and think about it, it’s really a precious thing, isn’t it? How many friends do you have? Mind you, I’m not talking about ‘acquaintances’ here: I mean people who, whether the chips are up or down, you can call on and count on without really having to think twice about it – and they can do the same with you. A college instructor once told me that if you have two or three real, live, actual friends during your whole life, you should consider yourself pretty well blessed. For some reason I’ve never ever forgotten that – probably because it’s truth seems more and more apparent as time continues to go on.

But how do you define ‘friendship’? What would you consider the attributes of a good friend to be? Loyal? Yes. Trustworthy? Sure. A good listener? Okay on that, too. Lends you money whenever you ask for it? Well….. It’s interesting to see what the Lord Jesus Christ identifies as the distinguishing characteristics of a true friend. You can find them – or ‘it’ – listed in John 15:14: “You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you.” …Say what? That’s it?? Yep, just that one requirement.

Now if I were a betting man, I think I’d wager the whole farm that if you asked a hundred people how they’d describe a good friend, “being obedient to whatever I told them to do” would not make the Top Ten List of any of them. And if by chance it did, it’d be for the sole purpose of that individual exercising and maintaining control over someone else. In other words, it would be for ‘self’-ish reasons.

Rest assured, though, that’s not why it’s at the top of God’s ‘Friendship Requirements’ list (top, middle and bottom, actually; since that one specification is all there is). Remember, God is love; and Love is not selfish, not even a little bit (John 8:29; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 John 4:8, 16). So there must be something else going on which might have escaped our immediate perception. Of course, we can surmise that ‘God knows best’ and ‘God knows more than I do’; not to mention the fact that, ‘Well, He’s God, and therefore I should obey Him if for no other reason than that’. And each of those reverential thoughts is totally correct. Nevertheless, I believe there’s an even deeper principle at work.

Go with me to Genesis 22:2. That’s where God told Abraham to sacrifice His son Isaac (his only begotten son, by the way [Hebrews 11:17]) to Him. Why would the LORD make such a demand as that? We actually find a flash of light alluding to the reason further down in verse 16 of the same chapter, where the LORD said, “Because you’ve done this thing [been totally obedient], and haven’t withheld even your only son from Me…” (paraphrased). Okay now, here’s exactly the right spot to insert a very important tidbit of ‘inside’ information: The root (shalam) of the Hebrew word ‘peace’ (shalowm) includes the concept of reciprocation, which means ‘to pay back again’ or ‘to repay in kind’.

Do you see it? God is a just and righteous God and renders to every person according to their own works, whether good or bad. So in making such a bold, over-the-top and (seemingly) selfish request, He was actually setting Abraham up for an absolutely incalculable store of blessing, salvation and eternal life (Genesis 22:17; Job 34:11-12; Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:5-7). Because Abraham passed that test of obedience and didn’t balk at giving his only son in sacrifice to God, God responded by calling him “Friend” and willingly obligating Himself to reciprocally give His only Son in sacrifice as well! (Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 41:8; John 3:16-17; James 2:21-23).

Reciprocation. It’s implied in the concept of ‘peace’. And it’s included in the package called ‘Peace with God’ (Isaiah 57:19; Luke 2:14; John 14:27; Romans 5:1-2). Jesus taught about it this way: “If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you can ask whatever you want, and it’ll be done for you. … If you keep My commandments, you’ll abide [protected and cared for] in My love; just as I’ve kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. … This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I’ve loved you. … You’re My friends, if you do whatever I command you. … You didn’t choose Me; I chose you and ordained you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He’ll give it to you. This is what I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:7, 10, 12, 14, 16-17 paraphrased).

The Lord continued: “He that has My commandments and keeps [obeys] them is the one who loves Me, and he who loves Me is loved by both My Father and Me; and I’ll manifest myself to him. … If a person loves Me he’ll keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We’ll both come and make our dwelling with him. … Truly, truly I’m telling you, whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He’ll give it to you. Up to now, you’ve asked nothing in My Name: [but from now on in My Name] ask, and you’ll receive, so that your joy will be full. … For the Father Himself loves you because you’ve loved Me…” (John 14:21, 23; 16:23-24, 27).

So you see the concept is simple and really quite ingenious: Jesus is saying to us, “I’ve laid down My life for you; now you lay down your life for Me. Real, true Friends do those kinds of things for one another (John 15:13-14). Give up your life of fear, sickness, lack and defeat – the ‘low’ life of this world. Take My life for yourself – the Divine life of overcoming victory, abundance of everything that’s good, and eternal salvation (John 10:10). It’s what I’ve purchased for you, Friend. Just do whatever it is I ask you to do. And in reciprocation, our Father will do whatever you ask Him to do. Why would He ever make that kind of promise to you? Just because He loves you for loving Me… and that’s what Love does: He gives!” (John 3:16, 14:21; Romans 8:32; 1 Timothy 6:17; 1 John 4:8)

 

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