As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved 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 do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.
It’s wonderful to have friends, friends are beautiful gifts from God. Without friends, I don’t think we could have survived in this cold and rough world. Because of friends, we could overcome our loneliness and because of friends, we had laughter and joy. In this tough life, we spend so much time with them and have so many experiences we cherish. Some of them are very crazy things to do. When we were sad, they comforted us and when we suffered, they suffered with us. When we are happy, they share the joy that we had and deep in their heart they truly were happy for us. Having friends is probably the most precious thing in the world. And because of our friends, our family, our life has been full and meaningful. So my friends, try to make as many friends as possible. There will be good for your life and if you have good friends, don’t take them for granted.
Cherish them and in this community, make some new friends. Forgive one another, accept one another, understand each other and embrace one another. In doing that, slowly you will feel the friendship and then you can build the friendship. The Christian life is simple. The Christian life is nothing but being a friend to other people. You become friends with other people. That is what it means to live as a Christian. They don’t have to be like me. They don’t have to share my views, they don’t have to have the same hobbies as me, age doesn’t really matter. The race doesn’t matter. We can be a friend to all kinds of people. Think about it, consider other people as your enemies and consider other people as your friends. If you see somebody and if you see that person as a stranger and as an enemy compared to if you see somebody and you take them as your friend, your life will turn out very differently. When you see other people as your enemies, you will become hostile and defensive, and I don’t want to be hostile and defensive in the world. That’s not the way for happiness. When you’re continuously hostile and defensive to other people, you don’t become happy. You don’t look happy. Your face doesn’t look happy when you do that. But when you take other people as friends, there’s a warmth around you.
No one is perfect, no one. As you get to know them, you see their weaknesses and their shortcomings. If you look at them apart from far away they look good, but when you become friends, you go closer and closer to them and then you see all the ugly things too. Shortcomings, weaknesses, you know. If you reject them because of that and turn your back against them because of their weaknesses and shortcomings, we will never be able to make friends. We’ll never be friends with other people. There’ll be no friends left for us. We have to learn to accept their weaknesses and embrace them. I think that’s higher wisdom. You accept their weakness and their shortcomings and embrace them. I think that is higher wisdom. Less wise people will always look at negative things about other people, but smart people, the positive things and negative things they embrace. That’s how they live a positive life. That’s why they make so many friends.
Isn’t that what love is all about? If you love somebody that is lovable what good is it? Anybody can do that. Who doesn’t love Encarnacion and who doesn’t love Bautista? Who doesn’t Love David Price these days? Everybody loves them. Everybody loves them, right? So if you love somebody that is lovable, anybody can do it. But if you’re able to love the unlovable, I think that is true love. That’s what the definition of love is, love the unlovable. When Jesus loves us, I don’t think Jesus sees the lovable quality within us, and that is not the reason why he loves us. I believe that Jesus sees everything inside of us, all our weaknesses, shortcomings and ugliness within us even. And yet he loves us. And often I think that that is a miracle. God loves me even though he sees all about me and he still loves me. That’s a miracle. In that way, love is a miracle. That is Jesus’ love. Look at how he loved Judas, knowing that he would betray him.
The most beautiful scene is the last scene, the last supper. Jesus took the bread and gave it to Judas, knowing that he would soon go out and betray him. He did not reject him. Even at the communion table, he gave the bread to the person who will betray him. That is love, that is love, allowing him to betray him. That is the kind of love Jesus showed. Today Jesus calls us as his friends. This is what he said, “I do not call you servants any longer because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my father.” By saying that we are his friends. Jesus brought down all the barriers and the walls that exist between God and us. Now he considers us as his friend. He embraced all our shortcomings and weaknesses and calls us his friend, not because we became lovable and worthy all of a sudden to be his friend. He just accepted us and loved us and considered us as his friend. I think that’s a radical statement. Jesus, as God calls us as his friend,
Then Jesus told us about the greatest love and this is what he said, “no one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” That is the ultimate love you can do for your friends, and we Christians believe that Jesus did that for us. Jesus showed how precious we are through his death. That’s what love is. Love makes a person precious. When you’re loved, you feel appreciated. You feel preciousness. That’s what love does. When you love somebody, you make that person so precious. If you hate that person, you make that person so miserable and low, but when you love somebody, then you make that person very precious. Making somebody so special and precious, and I believe that that is love. That’s why proud people or self-centered people can never love. Because no one is more precious than them, no one is more special than them. They refuse to make any other person as precious as they are so they can never love. They refused to consider others as precious. Jesus refused to call us as his friends. Now we relate to Jesus, not as a servant, but as a friend.
Rejection and Acceptance
You know, we have this fear of rejection, so we try so hard to be in. Nobody wants to be rejected. Kids who bully other kids know this fear very well, so they bully others by rejecting them, by isolating them, by excluding them. There’s an expression popular among kids, “FOMO” and that is the fear of missing out. “Oh, so and so was invited to the party. How come I’m not invited? Oh, it looks like they’re going somewhere to eat. How come they don’t ask me to go?” That’s the fear of missing out. That’s why people want to be popular so that they can be accepted everywhere.
Strangely, people criticize Jesus, saying that he was a friend of sinners. He was a friend of sinners. Jesus was indeed a friend of sinners. He chose to be a friend of sinners. He chose to be a friend of the people who nobody wanted to be friends with. We should not limit our friendship to the people we like and the popular people, we should extend our friendship to those who are alone and on their own. Our life will be richer. In my ministry. I like to be a friend to the people I minister to. Probably that was my philosophy from the beginning without realizing it. When I do visitations, they treat me like a friend and I appreciate it. Last Thursday I had dinner with an ESM couple and I feel like I met old friends and had dinner. It was a nice restaurant downtown, where only celebrities go. So I said, that’s the restaurant only celebrities go to and then she said, “you’re the celebrity.” So we had a beautiful dinner. They are the ones who during their university time dated together and you know they came to my house because the movie was at seven o’clock and we still had 45 minutes to kill, so they just dropped by my house. So all kinds of people came to my house and then we are all friends. That’s how I have done ministry. There are people who might have known me for more than 30 years here, even before I became ordained. They were there and they are still here.
They are like good friends. It is important that we become friends with each other and that’s what Jesus wants. Jesus said, “as I have loved you, love one another.” We should break down the walls between us and restore our friendship. Many, many people live in loneliness. We all feel existential loneliness. God gave us this community and it is important that we go beyond our boundaries and build our friendships with each other. We should overcome our boundaries of cultural gap, age gap, language gap, and become friends by accepting each other. You don’t have to be the same age to be friends. You don’t have to have the same cultural background to be friends. You don’t have to have the same financial status to be friends. Especially to those who don’t have many friends in this community, we need to extend our hands, our friendship. We need to reach out. I hope that the newly elected elders exercise reaching out, extending the hands of your friendship to the people who come to our community. Instead of remaining in our little circle, we should open up our circle and go out and reach out. They can be friends you have known for a long time, but you may find a new friend too.
One of my good friends are more than 20, 30 years older than me, they are my golf buddies. Well, I’ve been playing golf with them for, I don’t know how long, they are like my friends, the age doesn’t matter. The culture doesn’t matter. When we have a friendly attitude to other people, our life will change and we can expand our experiences.
A lot of times the reason we cannot make friends is that we are the problem, not them. Maybe we have too much hurt, pain or anger to have friends, to have a friendly attitude to others. Remember, Jesus became friends with you and he wants you to reach out to others and make friends and be their friends. Make God bless you with your journey. As you make new friends all the time. Go out and make good friends in your life as Jesus was your friend. Let us sing together.
There have been many friends, who have supported us and who have been with us all our lives and now Jesus is our friend. Maybe sometimes we rejected our friends sometimes we turn our back against them because we saw their shortcomings and weaknesses. Let us pray that we may a have a big heart to embrace all kinds of people as our friend.