31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
August 20, 2017
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
C.S. Lewis, the well-known Christian author once wrote, “Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life.” Virginia Woolf, another well-known author, had this to say about the importance of friendship, “Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” And Lois Wyse, the author, columnist, and advertising exec who created the tag line “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.” said this, “A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.”
There is no doubt. Friends are important. We all need friends on this journey of life. They are comfort; they are connection; they are the greatest of worldly goods. However, the word ‘friend’ can be used in many different ways.
Little kids go to the park, play with another child for an hour, and call them a friend. The average Facebook user has 338 “friends”. You can be a friend of the Bristol Public Library or the Boston Symphony.
I doubt C.S. Lewis, Virginia Woolf, or Lois Wise were talking about any of those types of friends though. How about you? What does friendship look like to you? What does it mean to be a friend?
In their book, The Art of Friendship, father and daughter duo, Roger and Sally Horchow, write:
Friendship is not always easily defined. There is a range of meaningful relationships, and not all of them need to be of the close, call-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night variety to be worthwhile. For example, you might have been taking the same yoga class for several years, and frequently afterward you and a fellow yogi go for a frozen yogurt and chat about the class. You’ve never been to each other’s homes or met each other’s family but you enjoy your weekly fifteen minutes together and would feel disappointed if you didn’t do it. Is your yoga buddy a friend? Of course….(the Horchows write)
There are plenty of other types of friendships that are meaningful but not necessarily profound or long-term. Work friendships, situational friendships, cordial acquaintances- the varieties are as plentiful as the people you meet. Each type of friend should be treated with respect and the appropriate level of affection. If you stay open to the possibilities for friendships that do not necessarily conform to the most common expectations, you are likely to engage in some rewarding interactions that you would otherwise miss out on. (Horchow, 15)
What does friendship look like? To Sally and Roger Horchow, it looks like a lot of things: tennis partners, golf buddies, work friends, childhood best friends, talk-at-your-kid’s-school-while-waiting-for-pick-up acquaintances, and I think they would even say Facebook friends. For them, friendship does not have to conform to the most common expectations. It does not even have to be long lasting, but it does bring you connection, joy, comfort, and support.
In our scripture passage this morning, Jesus says, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15)
I do not call you doulos, servants, any longer, but now I call you philos, friends.
The Greek word, philos, means friend, someone who is dearly loved and prized, and it also means love. Greek has three words for love: Eros – like the Greek god of romantic love; Philos; and Agape, the word for love most often used by the Christian writers.
When Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) the Greek word used is agape. Agape is often described as a value driven love, a decision based love.
We love because we choose to love. We love because it is the Christian way of life. The good news of Jesus Christ is that God chooses to love us and to be in relationship with us – not because we deserve it, not because we have earned it, not because God has decided that we are fun to be around. God loves us because that is who God is.
God chooses to love, and because God loves us, we choose to love others – not because they are worthy, not because they are blameless, not because they deserve it. We love because we are followers of Jesus Christ. Agape – a love based on our values, a decision we make every day because of who we are and whose we are.
If agape is a decision based love, then philos is an experience-based love. Philos is a love based on connection and time spent together, a relationship built on history, trust, and affection.
When Jesus calls his friends philos, we are to understand that this is a friendship based on shared experiences, this is a friendship that has endured the tests of time, this is a friendship where two people know each other really well and treasure their relationship with each other.
It makes sense for Jesus to call us philos. Jesus knows us inside and out. Jesus has walked with us every step of our lives, even when we were unaware of his presence, even when we might not have appreciated his presence.
Jesus knows us. He’s that you-can-call-him-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night friend; that faithfully walk with you through divorce, cancer, your parents dying friend; that can’t wait to see you and hear the funny story from your day friend; that take you in his arms and give you solace friend; that lay down his life for you friend. That is the kind of friend Jesus is.
When we sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus” and “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no, not one! No, not one!” we know it, and we mean it. Jesus is no passing acquaintance. He is our life long, faithfully committed, no matter what friend.
How about us though? What kind of a friend are we to Jesus? Are we church friends? Saying hi to Jesus and talking to him when we come into this building? Are we situational friends? Calling Jesus up when we are in need, talking on and on about our troubles, and then saying ‘Good talking to you. We should do this more often.” before we hang up? Are we possibly even frenemies with Jesus? Keeping a superficial smiling connection because it benefits us socially, but not really believing how much Jesus loves us and definitely not choosing Christ’s way of loving others?
What kind of a friend are we to Jesus? Are we excited to spend time with him? Do we tell him the quirky and outlandish stories from our day, about the moments that brought us great joy and the ones that challenged us? Do we ask his advice about our struggles and rest in his arms for solace? Do we invite him into our lives to play and celebrate? Do we gladly introduce him to others?
What kind of a friend are we to Jesus?
It doesn’t matter. Jesus is not a fair weather friend. Jesus is not a superficial acquaintance. Jesus does not weigh the costs and benefits of being our friend. He simply loves us.
He knows our abilities and our flaws. He knows when we have succeeded and failed. He has walked every step of this journey of life with us and will always be our faithful friend.
And if you ever start to forget that, if you ever have a moment when you doubt Jesus’ deep and abiding love for you, just remember the song.
You’ve got a friend in [Jesus]
You’ve got a friend in [Jesus]
When the road looks rough ahead
And you’re miles and miles
From your nice warm bed
You just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you’ve got a friend in me
Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me