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The Greatest Friend

00:00 / 17:06

5 May 2024

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 15:9-17

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…’

John 15:10


-       Last week focus on individual soul abiding in Christ. This week, corporate dimension.

-       Christ not only present to us ‘inwardly’, but also in the Church.

-       The Church is a sacramentum, a sign that participates in the reality. We can know Christ in it.

Consider the words of Christ;

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” John 15:10

What commandment is spoken of here?

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12

Therefore, to abide in Christ’s love, we must love one another as Christ has loved us.

Two questions arise: 1) How has Christ loved us? and 2) How does this apply?

How has Christ loved us?

As a friend.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

The Oasis of Friendship

Friendship a particularised love: selects someone because that person has qualities and presence which the other enjoys. Therefore a certain vulnerability in offering friendship to another.

Aelred of Rievaulx: Love something we must offer to our enemies but friendship restricted to a select few: “By the law of charity we are ordered to welcome into the bosom of love not only our friends but also our enemies. But we call friends only those to whom we have no qualm about entrusting our heart and all its contents.” Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship

“The joy and peace that friendship gives make us long for more, because friendship functions like an oasis within the desert; friendship longs for the entire desert to be transformed into an oasis. In our experience, we encounter deserts all over the place, while friendships are fragile and weak. The limitations and particularities of love and friendship cause tension in our lives.” Hans Boersma, Pierced by Love: Divine Reading with the Christian Tradition

We’d spend all our time with our friends if we could, but obligations and law of charity prevent this. Friendship, therefore, outshines love in our experience because our friends are not “a burden and a bore” (Aelred, Spiritual Friendship).

Example of tribute from memorial service: man spoke of long lunches over many courses and different beverages. Last one before his friend died “lasted six hours”. He said it was “their best lunch ever”.

Friendship like an oasis in the desert of this world. Give thanks to God for good friends.

God’s Friendship

Told throughout Scriptures that God too has friends: Abraham (Isaiah 41:8), Moses (Exodus 33:11), Lazarus Christ’s friend (John 11:11), John described as the beloved disciple (John 13:23).

Here, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15).

How does Christ express his friendship? By laying down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Cross, therefore, a sign of Christ’s friendship to his disciples. This is a true friend: willing to suffer, to sacrifice for his friends.

Christ is our friend who loves us for the particular people we are, who makes known to us all that Father has made known to him (John 15:15), who (dare we say it?) likes us – even if we feel others don’t, even if we don’t like ourselves.

He calls us friends and he does so first.

How does this apply?

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love (agapEn) has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (philOn).” John 15:12

Two different types of love spoken of here linked together: divine love (agape) and friendship (philia).

Suggestion that these two loves are interchangeable in context of the Church: divine love, human friendship.

Therefore, the Church itself can become a sacramentum – a sign that communicates the reality of the thing it signifies.

In this case, through the friendship of believers, expressed in the Church, the divine love of God may be manifested. This, in at least two ways:

1)    As we show filial love to others, we abide in Christ’s love and know fullness of joy: “If you keep my commandments (ie to love one another) you will abide in my love…These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10,11)

Motivation to show friendship to others: to find Christ’s love joy in the demonstration of love. Not mercenary – for something other than friendship – but because within that love is the presence of Christ.

2)    To others who encounter the love and friendship of God in the Church: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

The Church exists to demonstrate the love of God through a community of human beings. It exists for no other purpose. Not a corporate hierarchy pronouncing on abstract topics, but a tangible set of relationships in a particular place, with real people who share fellowship and mutual responsibility for one another.

Both of these things drew me to Christ as a young man: through reading John’s Gospel, but I also experienced his love through

visiting a church: vibrancy, life, joy, friendship. I didn’t know it, but I was being invited in to the heart of God.

Let us discover this communal aspect of abiding in God’s love together. Let it characterise how we are and what we do. We come here not only for a high-church ‘fix’ but to share our lives together as disciples. Sociality, friendship, a central part of the Christian life. Without it we abide only as individuals but miss that corporate aspect that is so powerful and rich.

Take opportunities for fellowship offered throughout the week. Create your own opportunities: show hospitality to those in the Church. Offer your friendship to others, particularly if you suspect they might be lonely or struggling. Think of Christ’s friendliness to those around him and seek to imitate it.

As we become the sign of Christ’s friendship, we participate in the reality of God’s love. Our hearts are ‘strangely warmed’. We realise that we are truly abiding in Him.


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