This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14 ESV
When I hear the word “friend” I first think of an equal with whom I enjoy mutual support through thick and thin – mostly to get through personal trials. When I interpret Jesus as that kind of friend, this popular song comes to mind. It’s a true and comforting song. But Jesus’s use of the term “friend” in John 15 seems more robust.
One of the things you might question is why did Jesus inject the word “command” when talking about his disciples as friends? Reading further in John 15, it becomes apparent that Jesus intends the friendship role to extend beyond a sharing of joys and personal difficulties.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:15-17 ESV
In these few words, Jesus invited and appointed his disciples to progress from the status of “servants” who work for a daily wage, to an inner circle of “friends” devoted to advancing his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He also reinforced his command for them to love one another as intensely as he loved them – that they regard themselves as an indestructible team. Jesus also confirmed that our Father in Heaven stands ready to provide ample resources to accomplish his mission.
Perhaps the word “friend” in John 15 can be better understood by looking at the role of ambassador described by the Apostle Paul:
…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:19-20 ESV
Here is the contemporary Merriam-Webster definition of an ambassador:
A diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.
When Jesus calls us into friendship, he’s inviting and appointing us to be ambassadors from the Kingdom of God to the world around us. He desires us to hear his voice daily so we won’t find ourselves acting independently of him for our own benefit. Being Jesus’ friend and ambassador likewise includes working in close harmony with other believers.
Sometime this week or next, read or listen to an interview with a current or former U.S. ambassador to a major country. Alternatively, research which countries the U.S. does not maintain an embassy or consulate – think about the consequences of no embassy if you should visit that country. Allow daily margin for the Holy Spirit to reveal details about the ambassadorship you’ve been assigned. If you’re not yet on a team with a group of Jesus’s other ambassadors, ask him to show you where he wants you.