I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you.
The Matter of Choice
A great many of us experienced Christian conversion by answering, “Yes,” to this question: “Do you choose Jesus as your personal Savior?” The exchange is valid to some extent. Following Christ is a conscious choice, yet emphasizing the need to choose doesn’t come from Jesus. The matter of choice derives from Old Testament theology, which presented obedience as an either/or proposition—God’s way or else. “Choose for yourselves whom you will serve,” Joshua told the Israelites, “but as for me my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24.15)
With Jesus, choosing is a moot point. He’s already chosen us. His love isn’t something we earn by righteousness. It’s a gift, there for the taking, without any “either/or” attached. This was what He meant by saying, “I’ve told you everything I learned from my Father.” Accepting God’s unconditional love seals our bond with Him. It’s why He’s our Friend. That significantly changes the conversation from whom we choose to serve to whom we choose to love.
On this, He was very firm and clear. In the verse before He named us among His friends, He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” And He prefaced that with, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” That’s a mighty tall order. It’s also rather odd when you think about it. We don’t maintain friendship with Jesus by loving Him. We secure His friendship by proving we love others, laying down our lives if need be.
Bullets and Trains
Quite possibly, we’ve all melodramatically promised to take a bullet or leap in front of an oncoming train for someone we love. That’s easily said since most likely we’ll never have to do it. But how willing are we to lay down our lives, to sacrifice pride, ambition, comfort—even reputation—to love someone else? We might prefer the bullet. Yet Jesus did it, not only in death but also in life. In 2 Corinthians 8.9, Paul wrote, “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” He set aside everything to love us—wrong, corrupt, and selfish though we were—because He’s our Friend. Not in a million years could we ever deserve it, so He chose us first. In return, He asks us to choose others first. He became our Friend so we could befriend others, including those who by no stretch of our imagination deserve it.
For most of us, it's easier to imagine taking a bullet...
or jumping in front of a train...
...than sacrificing our pride and dignity to love someone who neither wants nor deserves it.
(Tomorrow: Our Strength)