A Friend Indeed

You know... [I’m] slowly learning... what friendship is.... And it should be pretty simple ’cause the Bible says there’s a friend that sticks closer than a brother... and greater love has no man... than would lay down his life for his friend... I’ve had so many really good friends. —Johnny Cash 

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. —John 15:13 NLT 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus sets a pretty high bar for loving others. And in His death on the cross, He set the standard for love and friendship. Jesus laid down His life for His friends—and for the entire world. So when we want to learn what friendship is, the best place to start is with the Son of God. That’s who Johnny Cash had his eyes on when he wanted to learn. 

Jesus spoke the truth to His friends, even when it made them uncomfortable. For instance, He didn’t try to sugarcoat the harsh realities of what a friendship with Him would mean. He told His disciples what they would have to sacrifice if they wanted to follow Him. He warned them that they would face rejection, slander, suffering, and even death. Jesus risked losing friends by telling hard truths, but He gained the respect and trust of those who stayed by His side. 

Jesus confronted His friends when they were wrong. Once, after Jesus predicted to His disciples that He would soon die, Peter—who was one of Jesus’ closest earthly friends—had the nerve to take Him aside and tell Him that he (Peter) would never let it happen. Jesus immediately called Peter a stumbling block and pointed out the selfishness and egotism in his words. 

Jesus recognized His friends’ potential and helped them see it too. He took fishermen, a tax collector, and assorted blue-collar laborers and turned them into missionaries, church builders, and world changers. 

Jesus comforted His friends when they were scared. Some of the Lord’s miracles undoubtedly unsettled His disciples, especially the time He walked across the sea at night and climbed into their boat. What’s more, they became enemies of some of the most powerful people in Israel just by being Jesus’ followers. Through it all, Jesus was quick to reassure them, bolster their courage, and calm them with His presence. 

Jesus forgave His friends when they messed up. Peter panicked on the night of Jesus’ arrest and three times claimed not to know Him. Peter had trouble forgiving himself for his failure, but Jesus didn’t. After His resurrection, He sought Peter out, offered forgiveness, and repaired the relationship. 

Very few of us will be faced with the prospect of laying down our life for our friends. But there are other things we can sacrifice in order to strengthen the bonds of our friendships. We can lay down the pride that causes us to lash out when we’re hurt. We can lay down the competitiveness and jealousy that keep us from sincerely celebrating our friends’ accomplishments. We can lay down our comfort, our knee-jerk judgmental attitudes, our time, our energy, and our resources for the sake of our closest companions. That’s what it means to be the kind of friend Jesus was—and the kind of friend He calls us to be. 

Heavenly Father, Thank You for the friends who have made a difference in my life. Help me be the kind of friend who points others to You, who encourages them to reach their potential and who will sacrifice my own wants and needs for theirs. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

This is an excerpt from Walking the Line: 90 Devotions of Truth and Hope Based on the Faith of Johnny Cash a new devotional now available on DaySpring.com. Shop all books, journals, and devotions from DaySpring here.