Today’s Gospel reading reminds us of how revolutionary Christ’s relationship with mankind really is. He offered us a radical new model of approaching God through friendship. Understanding the spiritual role of friendship greatly impacts how we practice our faith.
Most ancient cultures believed in many gods and that these gods interacted with human beings. These pagan gods were believed to accept sacrifices from humans, to wreak devastation on humans, to play tricks on humans, and even occasionally to mate with humans. But friendship between God and human beings? Never!
Keeping this history in mind, Christ’s words in today’s Gospel offer a shocking contrast. Christ says,
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. (Jn 15:9-17)
“You are my friends.” This reality is enough to bring us to our knees, knowing that we can approach the throne of the Almighty confident of caring love instead of spiteful wrath.
Our ongoing friendship with God is the most important and genuine relationship of our lives. But the spiritual importance of friendship extends beyond our relationship with God. Man was made for community, and coming together with others is essential to our practice of faith and growth in virtue.
Like the cross itself, that stretches both vertically and horizontally, friendship with God above us naturally extends to those around us too. Indeed, it is often in these relationships with other people that we see the true effects of friendship with God: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
With this in mind, let’s take a look at what Scripture tells us about friendship. These 5 Bible verses can help us to better understand the role of friendship in faith.