This morning I was struck by this sign on a tree in woods where I walk the dog and pray. It seems that whoever Leonard Renery was, he was out of the ordinary. I am sure the common has had many friends, but this man was a ‘true’ friend. Such friendship was unusual enough that it was noticed, remembered and celebrated. It reminds me of the Proverb,
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 NIV)
We all need friends like that, and it is something Jesus modelled and expected of his followers. What a beautiful moment it was when, after three years of intensive training and teaching, Jesus invites his disciples into a new and deeper friendship,
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15 NIV)
Three things make this friendship possible:
- Friends of Jesus must love one another: “My command is this: Love one another” (John 15:12 NIV). If we cannot love those Jesus calls friends we cannot enjoy his friendship. This would be a contradiction in terms and make our friendship with him hollow and hypocritical.
- Friends of Jesus must obey his commands: “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14 NIV). Since we love Jesus, and honour Him as God’s son, and are inspired by his power, character and compassion, we are people who delight in obeying him. To not obey the one who came to save us (as implied by John 15:13) would be to deny that we accepted his very nature. Obedience is what makes friendship with the eternal Son possible. This obedience is a joyful liberation from slavery to sin and the principles of this world.
- Friends of Jesus must accept his love. This might seem strange, but, of course, you cannot force someone to be your friend. Jesus would like all to be his friends, but only those who will accept his love will enjoy that privilege.
Jesus was and is a ‘true’ friend to all who love him. We are his ‘true’ friends when we reciprocate that love both to him and his fellow-friends. And weekly communion reminds us of that sacrifice that made such friendship possible.
I never met Leonard Renery, but I am glad his admirers recorded his true friendship to the common. Jesus ‘met’ me, and there can be no greater honour in life than to realise that he would want to be my true friend. The call to me and all who follow him is to show him that true friendship – and to show it to others. After all, the evidence of the true depth of his friendship was nailed to a tree at far greater cost than the sign in the photograph above.