In order to determine how many “Real Friends” you have, you really need to ask another very important question: What does a “Real Friend” look like?
I’m not talking about if a guy is ‘good looking’ or if a girl is ‘pretty,’ and I’m not referring to what kind of clothes the person wears. I’m referring to the kind of person they really are on the inside – their character, their inner man, the heart of the person that drives their behavior.
As the Lord said to Samuel, “…man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). I’m asking how they respond when you are going through times of trials or suffering. How do you respond to your friends when they are suffering and hurting? What does your friend do when either you, or both of you, are facing a temptation to sin and do something that might be fun, but would be selfish and would not be pleasing to God? What does your friend say to you when he or she knows that you have sinned? How would they respond to you if you had to confront them about something they did that was wrong? How do you respond when you are confronted? These are some hints to what a “Real Friend” looks like – both in the kind of friends you have and the kind of friend you are!
“Real Friends“ Are First Connected to Jesus
In order to really ‘get it,’ I want to remind you of the context in which Jesus spoke these words. In John 13, Jesus is meeting with the disciples in the Upper Room the night of His betrayal – just prior to going to the cross and dying for us. Although He knew they were going to forsake Him and deny Him, He still washed their feet. Jesus also had an interchange with Peter about Peter denying Christ three times before the rooster crows twice. In John 14, Jesus offers comfort and explains the role of the Holy Spirit. Then in John 15:1-11, Jesus teaches them (and us) about our relationship to Him. He’s teaching us that He is the Vine, and we are the branches, and how the ‘fruit’, the ‘more fruit’, and the ‘much fruit’ flow out of our relationship with Him. Jesus put it this way in John 15:5, “without Me, you can do nothing.” A “Real Friend” starts with a connection to the Friend of all friends, Jesus. He was the “Real Friend” of all friends!
“Real Friends“ Love Each Other
All of us need to think about what Jesus said in John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” In fact, if we translated this statement literally, Jesus said it this way: This is my commandment that you be continuously loving each other . . . I’ll be honest with you, the ‘love one another’ part is understandable, to a degree, and reasonably achievable. However, it’s the “love one another as I have loved you” that is humbling, challenging, convicting, and reveals our weaknesses! It also reveals how desperate we are to be connected to the Vine to help us produce the fruit of love to others the way Jesus loves people.
The word that Jesus uses is the strongest love possible, and is God’s kind of love. Jesus uses the word, agapa. God’s love is a self-sacrificial kind of love – the exact love He was about to demonstrate on the cross. It doesn’t get any better than that. To simplify this, I can say it this way: Our love for people flows out of God’s love for us and our love for God. If we don’t love God much, we’re probably not going to love people much. And if we love God a lot, it’s going to show up in the way we love each other.
“Real Friends” Demonstrate Godly Love
You can’t ‘bluff’ at this level. People know if you really care about them or if you really love them. You might get away with a lot of things, but you can’t really fake godly love because godly love demonstrates itself in ways that can be interpreted. Real love is not about ‘talk’, it’s about action.
Stop and ask yourself, what does ‘loving each other’ look like on a day-to-day basis?
- Show love through hospitality – having people over to your house to fellowship with each other and build the relationship even stronger.
- In times of trial, “Real Friends” are praying for each other, and encouraging each other.
- When problems or conflicts occur, a real friend goes to the Bible to determine the right thing to do, and will do it.
- In good times (times of blessings), a real friend will rejoice and be happy for his/her friend, and thank the Lord for His blessings.
- When there are physical or spiritual seeds, a real friend will be there to help that friend handle things in a way that is pleasing to God.
What have you done recently to show love to your friend(s)? Maybe you need to think about what John the Beloved Apostle wrote in 1 John 3:18,”Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” Here’s something to remember about being a “Real Friend”: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care! That’s a “Real Friend.”
Next time: The 4 Key Ingredients to godly friendships that Jesus gives in John 15.