Some of my earliest childhood memories involve friends. You see, I grew up with the same friends. No joke. There were six of us and we did everything together. We went from the nursery at church to college graduation together. In fact, just about every childhood memory I have involves one, if not all, of them. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.
When I became an adult, I realized that friendship can be difficult. I’ve had seasons where I’ve been lonely and hurt. Having said that, I’ve walked in seasons with real, true friendship where people are mutually seeking Christ and seeking to push one another toward Him. This type of friendship can be one of the greatest blessings in life.
I’ve been studying in 1,2,and 3 John the past few months, and I’ve learned a lot about the high priority God places on relationships. There are several different themes that run through the books of 1,2, and 3 John:
Light vs. Dark
Love vs. Hate
Keeping His Commands
Abiding in Him
Walking in Truth
But do you know what the most prevelant theme is in these books? Love. In fact, John mentions the word love over 40 times in 1 John alone.
Let’s think about the author of John for a second. These books were written by the apostle John. He additionally wrote the gospel of John and Revelation. He refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loves.” Which coincidentally, I used to think John might have had an heir of pride when he labeled himself as such, but now I realize he said it with the most humble of spirits. He said it in a “how can it be” type tone.
John was around 60-70 when he wrote 1,2,3 John. These books are letters (or epistles), unlike the gospel of John which is an account of Jesus’s ministry or Revelation which is apocalyptic literature. John wrote these letters while living in the city of Ephesus and he wrote to the early church.
Look with me at 1 John 1:1
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.
Who is the “Word of Life”? Jesus. What is John saying here? He’s saying he has heard, seen, looked at, and touched the things of Jesus. He was literally right there.
So yeah, I think it’s safe to say that John really knew Jesus. Really knew him.
So when John tells us in 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God, it must be important, right?
Because he goes on in verse 8 to say this:
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Should we love everyone? Absolutely. But let’s think about the audience to which John is writing. Who is he writing to? He’s writing to the early church. He’s writing to Christians.
The message is still relevant for us today…love one another.
Jenn Wilkin in her book, Women of the Word, says that “the heart can not love what the mind does not know.” She is referencing studying the Bible to know and love God more, but I think this principle can be applied to friendships as well. Want better friendships?
First and foremost…Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Study the Bible like it’s a college course. Get to know who God is and who you are not. Spend time in prayer. Live in community with other believers that can challenge you and point you to a better way.
Get to know one another. Deeply.
Love sacrifically. Put the needs of the other person above yours. I’m not talking about being a door mat. I’m talking about being selfless.
Plan fun nights together. Invite someone over to your house for dinner. Friendship doesn’t just magically happen. It requires effort.
Don’t treat friendship as an idol.
That friend did not die for your sins. Allowing an earthly relationship to have that priority in your life will not end well. It will always, ALWAYS come up lacking. Ask me how I know.
You see, God uses friendships, really every relationship, to mold us and shape us into who He desires for us to be. It’s about our holiness. It’s about His glory. It’s about knowing Him and making Him known…with every fiber of our being…from the neighborhood you live in to the nations of the world.