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A couple of years ago, I came across a definition of friendship that struck a chord with me.  It talked about the four degrees of friendship.  Firstly you are ‘friends’ with someone - that is when you know them, you know their name, you pass the time of day with them or have a conversation with them.  Secondly you are ‘good friends’ with someone and that is when you spend more time with them, you know more than just their name, you might know their parents’ names or where they have been on holiday or what their hobbies are.  Thirdly you are ‘very good friends’ with someone and that is when you have shared interests with them, you know all their personal data but you also know some of their secrets including the scrapes they got up to.  Finally – in this grading of friendship – you are ‘best friends’ with someone and that is when know all about the scrapes they got up and, in fact, you were at their side at the time of those scrapes and those greatest challenges in life.  I say, that grading of friendships struck a chord with me because, in the modern world – particularly through social media like Facebook, we are encouraged to have many friends but there are only a few people who will truly know and appreciate what challenges you’ve been through and what difficulties you had to face before any triumph.

 

 

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the term ‘friends’ to describe his followers, his disciples: “You are my friends” and “I call you friends.”  And, in terms of the grading of friendship that I’ve just described, you get the sense that Jesus calls his disciples his ‘best friends’ because HE will be the one to stand by them through all the scrapes that they get up.  From our readings today, there are to be three main attributes to being a friend, a disciple of Jesus: they are to love like Jesus; they must remember they are in a new type of relationship with God; and, having known these two aspects, they are to remember the command to love.

 

 

 

So what does ‘loving like Jesus’ mean?  Well, Jesus’ love was clear.  His love was continuous and it never ends.  Jesus’ love was seen most clearly when he laid down his life for his disciples.  Jesus kept no record of wrongs for his friends, even though there was a betrayer and a denyer amongst their number.  Finally, Jesus’ love was connected to His Father’s love – connected to the God of Creation that gave his disciples life in the first place.  So if you are going to be Jesus’ disciple, then you are to do the same: your love is to be continuous, never ending; you are to give yourself for others; you are to keep no record of wrongs; and finally you are to connect their love to the love of the God of Creation.

 

 

 

You can do all of this only if you understand that you have a new relationship with God.  That was the whole purpose of Jesus coming on earth – to help people understand that God doesn’t relate to them as a master-servant relationship.  God is not an oppressor looking down angrily on his people.  The God we believe in is a God of love who says ‘you are no longer slaves but friends with me; you are no longer servants but love and chosen by me.’  I think the call of this weekend’s Gospel is simply to bask in the glow of Jesus’ love.  Spend some time this week simply thinking about that.  Jesus calls you his friend!  Jesus loves you!  Jesus chooses you! Now!

 

 

 

Jesus comes to you today to pass on the ‘baton of love’.  He calls you and me today to simply understand how much he loves you.  Hold that ‘baton of love’ in your heart this week.  Understand that Jesus is your best friend who knows everything about you, even the scrapes you’ve got up, the mistakes you’ve made – and is still there at your side to support you.  Understand Jesus’ love for you. 

 

 

 

Only then can you pass on the baton of love to others!

 

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