“Friendship with Christ” by Andrea Porras

John 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

As a young child attending Primary, I was often taught that Jesus was my friend. He was there to help me feel better when I was sad and He loved me. He was almost like an uncomplicated stuffed animal, there to comfort me when I needed Him. As I grew older and started to understand the real impact that my decisions made on others and the hurt I could inflict, Jesus transitioned to my Savior in addition to my friend. But I felt like a gulf slowly formed. On one end was me, a sinner and on the other was Jesus, a man who had died for me, offered salvation to me, and someone I’d never actually met in person. Were we actually friends? Or was He more like a benevolent caretaker and I was forever in his debt?

Were we actually friends? Or was He more like a benevolent caretaker and I was forever in his debt?

One example of friendship that has resonated with me comes from a study I heard about. College students were asked to list their friends in the class and also television shows they watched. The study found that they could match up friendships based on the television shows the students watched. Often, I think friendships happen because we’re in the same city at the same time and we like the same jokes and when I think about friendship with Jesus, it’s hard to picture myself watching anything on HBO with Jesus. In order to understand how the idea of frienship with Jesus can relate to me now, I need to step back and think about the friendships Jesus had in his time.

In John 13, Jesus washes the feet of the Twelve.

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 

“To the end” in Greek, ‘eis to telos’ can mean simultaneously “to the end of time” and “to the full extent of love.” 

At this point, Jesus knows that he is going to die soon. Not only that, he knows that one of his best friends, a man who has pledged his life to him, is going to betray him and turn him over to be killed. But Jesus has decided to continue loving his friends fully. He washes the feet of his disciples. In the foot washing, Jesus offers himself completely to his disciples, assuming the social role of servant, in order to give a tangible shape to his love. Servants, not hosts or masters, wash the feet of guests, and in the foot washing, Jesus makes the ultimate act of hospitality and friendship. He stands neither on ceremony nor on precedent, but engages in an act that makes his love and grace visible. He washes the feet of the man who will betray him.

Afterward, he tells them:

Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

I’ve really struggled with this idea, because I believe in setting boundaries. I believe that sometimes we need to see people out of our lives because our relationship is doing more damage than good. And here is Jesus, fully loving a man who is actively causing harm to him. To be honest, I don’t know what to do with this information. I don’t feel ready to love fully and to the end.

In John 15, Jesus continues teaching this idea:

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

This commandment to love as Jesus has loved may be the most radical part of the Gospel because it claims that the love that enabled Jesus to lay down his life for his friends is not unique to him. This love can be replicated and embodied over and over again by his followers. To keep Jesus’ commandment is to enact his love in our own lives. Jesus affirms the significance of this commandment by stating that his followers become his friends to the extent that they keep his commandment. The twelve have made a decision to dedicate their lives to the work of Jesus. They leave their occupations and they join him. I have friends that are also my coworkers, but I just can’t quite reach the level of friendship that Jesus had with these men.

A friendship that I relate to the most in Jesus’s life was the one he had with a group of siblings. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were Jesus’ friends. They spent time together, they ate together, and as far as I know, they didn’t work together. While I can’t quite relate to the twelve disciples, I can imagine a group of siblings that I would spend time with because we enjoyed each other’s company. 

On one occasion, Jesus is over at their house and Martha is running around, making sure that everyone’s got food on their plate, being a good host. I imagine this is how Martha shows her love. She’s working hard and she wants to make sure that everyone else is having a good experience. And while she’s doing that, her sister Mary is sitting and listening to Jesus. So Martha, in her frustration, says:

Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

In this moment, Martha has been left feeling abandoned.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

I see this not as a rebuke from Jesus, but as an invitation. He is inviting Martha to leave whatever notions she has about what she needs to be or do in order to deserve a seat at the table, and he’s telling her: You are enough now; please, come sit with us. This is more important. Your love is the most important thing about you.

On another occasion, Mary and Martha send word to Jesus and his disciples that Lazarus is sick. Jesus comes to them, but by the time he arrives, Lazarus has died. Mary stays with the mourning guests and Martha runs to meet Jesus. Jesus comforts Martha and then He has her go get Mary, and then He comforts her as well. There is something so special to me about the way He chooses to individually comfort them, even when there is a house full of people that He knows are about to witness a miracle with them. He sits with them in their pain and He acknowledges it. Martha, even in her anguish, tells Him that she believes in the resurrection. And yet, Jesus wept with them. There is an honesty in Jesus’s friendship with this family that I can relate to.

While researching this topic, I came across the work of Gail R. O’Day, whose scholarly research focuses on the Gospel of John and biblical interpretation. I was inspired by her article “I Have Called You Friends,” where she states:

Plain and honest speaking may not seem to us as radical an act of friendship as the gift of one’s life, but it is an essential characteristic of Jesus’ friendship with us. Jesus’ commandment to love as he has loved might feel unattainable were it not for the character of his friendship with us. Because Jesus, in his life and death, his words and deeds, showed and told his followers “everything” about God’s love, his followers’ relationship to the world and to one another was forever changed. Jesus’ openness is a model of how we are to treat one another, but it also provides the wellspring that makes our acts of friendship possible. Jesus’ plain and honest speaking, his full revelation of God’s love, has made human life more holy because he has treated his followers as full partners in his relationship with God. His friendship is more than the model for human love and friendship; Jesus’ friendship becomes the source of disciples’ capacity for friendship.[1]

I love the idea that the path to holiness is paved through acts of friendship.

I love the idea that the path to holiness is paved through acts of friendship. Dr. O’Day argues that friendship is the theological center of the Gospel of John. While I often think of love as the core of Christian theology, I don’t always include friendship in my idea of love.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Back to my original thought on the gulf that I feel between myself and Christ: because Christ has fully offered his love to me, he has basically tipped the tables so that he has made himself vulnerable to me. He has given his life, his love and his knowledge of the Father to me and I can choose to accept it. In accepting Jesus’s offering of friendship, I must love others as he loves me. This understanding of friendship and the life of faith I’ve chosen means that as a Christian, I must reassess the way I account for piety and make decisions every day about what is ethical or moral. If I take Jesus’ commandment to love seriously, and if I am truly trying to be a friend of Jesus, then I must give love freely and generously without counting the cost and without thought to who is on the receiving end of that limitless love.

I invite you to join me in accepting Christ’s friendship and working to offer love ‘to the end of your life’ and ‘to the full extent of love’. ⋑

Andrea Porras (she/ella) works in university administration in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but is currently on maternity leave with her chunky baby.


1. https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/61118.pdf


“Broken For Us”

Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”) is a special technique, where broken pottery is fixed using a gold lacquer. The purpose of this technique is to honor and highlight the history of the piece. It treats the breakage the piece has endured as something of beauty. This piece shows Christ adorned with Kintsugi, symbolic of how He chose to be broken for all of us. After all, no one in the history of the world was more shattered and broken than He was. In this piece you can see that all of the gold lines stem from Christ’s heart. I know that He knows and understands perfectly all that we have endured and been through in our lives.

Paige Payne
paigepaynecreations.com | @paigepayne_creations
Rachel Rueckert is the current editor in chief of the Exponent II Magazine. She is the author of EAST WINDS.

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