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.
As I write this I am reading a history of religion which details the development of many beliefs and rituals of the ancient world. I always find this kind of study challenging. Millions of people in hundreds of places over thousands of years exercised their customs with full confidence that their gods heard and cared enough to respond. I am sure many of these people considered themselves friends of their benevolent deities.
So here I am, in what is probably not the last century or millennium of human history, practicing a religious belief that recalls God's affection for me and those I love. I call him My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and he calls me friend.
My claim to this confidence is revelation:
"because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father."The Lord of Heaven and Earth has chosen for his own purposes and in his own time to show himself to a select people. He has done so not because they were particularly good or deserving but out of his own generosity. Despite the complaints of some people, God is under no particular obligation to treat everyone equally, revealing himself in precisely the same manner to every creature. There have been saints far more favored than I, and sinners not nearly as blessed as I. I do not envy the saints because they have suffered enormously with their privilege; and because I have been blessed far more than I can begin to appreciate.
Grace is like the lung cancer that sometimes afflicts people who never smoked. They didn't earn it and don't deserve it. I certainly have not earned or deserved the title friend, but I'd be a fool if I didn't accept it. The harshest critics of my belief would allow me that.
Given such a blessing, I must aspire to it. I owe it to the Lord and to myself to announce the Good News to others. They too are invited to friendship with Jesus. It's not a gift if I don't give it away.