Stewardship of our Presence III
Jesus in our Hangouts
A friend of mine died recently in the U.S, on the day he was to fly back into the country. One of the events he was to attend but was delayed was the birthday of his nephew as he turned 13. However he sent an email to him with this message: “You are the aggregate of your 5 closest friends. Choose your friends carefully”. I thought that was profound and it got me thinking about my 5 closest friends and their influence on me and mine on them.
Over this month we have been carrying out our series the Stewardship of Our Presence. We have been asking ourselves, “How can we have an influence on the people and community God has placed us in at home, away from home, at work and other social and formal places? How can we live out the LIFE of Jesus in such a way that people are drawn to the source of that LIFE? Two weeks ago we looked at Jesus in our neighbourhood, and last week we look at Jesus in the Marketplace. This week we look at Jesus in our Hangouts. How do we bring Jesus into our social circles and friendships; how do we represent Him there.
Created as social beings, people need friends – people who understand them and believe in them. But why are many people so lonely. For when you look at the evenings after work, people leave the offices in groups, laughing and in camaraderie. When you look at hangouts, they are full of people having a social time at the end of the day and more so the weekends. But more than anything else I am astounded at the number of people who call in to pour out their hearts to Maina Kageni on Classic, Jalash on Radio Maisha, Eudia Kaigai on Radio Jambo or Larry Asego when “Looking for Mapenzi” on Classic. I am led to think and therefore suggest to you that the reason for so much loneliness today is because many people have acquaintances but not friends. People tend to mix up the two, lowering the value of friendships. And so when we think about Jesus, we often think of Him more in His divinity than in His humanity. Yet in His humanity there are things we can learn if we did not think of him as only divine. And one of these is friendship. I want us to listen to the value and expectation of friendship from Jesus and glean a few things for our humanity that we may grow to be more like Him in His divinity.
Turn with me to John 15: 9 – 17
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 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. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Be ready to choose your friends
There is no question that Jesus chose His disciples and indeed very carefully after prayer. These men who He was to stick with very closely were not just followers. He chose men who would also be His friends. And I believe that He truly meant the word friends. Therefore He chose His friends. In v 15 he states categorically, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants but friends, because servants do not know their master’s business. I have called you friends for everything I have learned from my father I have made known to you. You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear much fruit”. Jesus chose men who would become His friends.
Many of our friendships are incidental rather than intentional. They are office friendships that sort of grow and soon you are tight. Some of these friendships are here in the church too. You serve on the same team then because of regularly doing things, you believe you are good friends. It may be the same in the neighbourhood, and because you meet at the shop or at the water collection point daily, you have a good friendship. Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants” and then proceeds to explain the transition, “but friends, because servants do not know their master’s business. I have called you friends for everything I have learned from my father I have made known to you”. When they were ready, they transitioned to become friends as He became much deeper in what He shared with them. When did you make the choice for that acquaintance to become a friend? Were you intentional about it? What changed? I say, it important to be intentional about your choice of friends rather than it being incidental – because that is reflected in my next point.
Be ready to choose your friends because they are a reflection of your character
Before Jesus came to the point where He called His disciples His friends, He provided a context for His discussion and hence His decision. He talked about the kind of person that God is, the kind of person that He is, an the kind of person that He wanted them to be, each feeding into the other respectively. And the character trait that stands out is love. So He said, “ 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command
It is after this that Jesus calls his disciples friends and gives them the reason for that. Yet it is clear that he wanted the character that was displayed in God the Father by loving Him, and that He himself had displayed by loving them, would be displayed in them by loving one another. And He says they would be His friends if they did what He did, to love one another.
Your friends are a reflection of your character. What our friends talk about will become what you talk about. What your friends laugh about becomes what you laugh about. You have to be intentional about choosing friends who reflect your character. But it is worth it because there is a sense in which the values you have are safeguarded and nurtured in that friendship. When your friends are a reflection of your character, you can confide in them just like Jesus did with the disciples. Because of their character you can trust them with your possessions. Because of their character you can trust them with ideas. Because of their character you can trust them with their advice. The opposite is clear. When we are unintentional about our friendships we share very personal things and they are turned into rumours. When we share our possessions they are misused and mishandled. When you ask for advice, you are fed with malice instead and when things backfire they laugh at you. You feel exploited and disappointed. And you wonder how? That was not a friend. There is a difference between acquaintances and friends. Friends are chosen because they are a reflection of your character.
Be ready to choose your friends because they are a reflection of your calling.
Jesus stated His mission and tied it very much to the discussion that He was having. In v 13 he says, “Greater love has no man than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. This is what He was going to do. This is what He had come to do so that these friends would be reconciled to God and to Himself; so that these friends would know the fullness of God’s plan for their lives. Jesus came to be the revelation of God’s love. He also sought that His disciples, being a reflection of His character would also become a reflection of His calling. And therefore he speaks to them about the command to love one another and then also charges them to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Even after saying that, he repeats at the end the charge of their calling once again in v 17, “This is my command: love each other”.
Choosing your friends must be tied to understanding your calling. It is the reasons a good number of people have many acquaintances that they unfortunately treat at the level of friends – because they do not understand their purpose or calling. You are surrounded by people who are heading in different directions or who do not know their calling – the purpose for their existence in their time and season they are in. Jesus knew His calling and therefore chose the people who would reflect that calling. Those are the people he called His friends and then invited them to share that calling with Him. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last”.
What joy there is to have a group of people who share the same passion and calling and then serving with them. They give you wisdom, they give you passion, they give you energy and because they believe in you, they are able to share their resources with you. They are the ones who believe the mantra we recently learnt in our 40 Days of Community – We are Better Together. Whether it is a chama, a LIFE Group, or a ministry team – such friendships become powerful vessels for the kingdom. This was Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who together refused to eat King Nebuchadnezzar’s rich food – they ate vegetables, for not wanting to defile themselves and whom God gave favour and raised them to prominence in the kingdom. This can be you and the friends you have chosen, to stand for the right thing in your office. This can be you and the friends you have chosen from among your relatives, to stand for justice over a land dispute (because families have serious alliances of “friends”). Whatever the context, you are better if you choose your friends because they are a reflection of your calling.
Shakespeare, that great English author said in one of His books, “Show me your friends and I will show you who you are”. Today how I hope you will go away more intentional about choosing your friends, for they reflect your character and your calling. But more so I pray that as you are taught about Christ, people will choose you as a friend for your Christ – like qualities. And hopefully as Christ is lifted up in and through you, men and women will be drawn to Him.