God created us with an innate need to connect with others. Newborns recognize their mother’s voice upon birth, and many believe while still in utero. Like our God, we long for relationships and families are where we first learn to connect.
Jesus grew up with half-brothers and half-sisters (Mark 6:3). Although the Bible does not tell us much about His childhood, aside from Luke 2:41-52, it is reasonable to believe our Lord had fun moments with his family, in addition to much hard work. There is no mention of special friends until Jesus entered public ministry.
Sadly, Jesus was doubted and ridiculed by His half-brothers and only after His resurrection were James and Jude true believers. Our Lord understands the pain of having family members who do not believe in a personal Savior.
“Jesus’ brothers said to Him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that Your disciples there may see the works You do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since You are doing these things, show Yourself to the world.’ For even His own brothers did not believe in Him.” John 7:3-5 (NIV)
Once Jesus entered public ministry, He began to gather His disciples: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, James-the Lesser, Judas, Thaddeus, Matthew, Philip, Simon, and Thomas. For three years they traveled together, ate together, slept together, ministered together, and lived as a band of brothers. We know from Scripture that He loved them and called them friends, even family.
“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to Him. Someone told Him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?’ Pointing to His disciples, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers.’” Matthew 12:46-49 (NIV)
As we mature, we reach outside family bonds and establish meaningful relationships with others who do not share our bloodlines. Common interests are not always shared between siblings, so friendships develop through shared likes, talents, and personalities. Just as we see in the life of Jesus, some of our friends become close, like family. (“This is my brother from another mother.”)
God places us into families. We begin life with the two people He ordains to be our parents. We cannot pick our bloodlines, although a mom and/or dad will sometimes use their free will to wave their right to raise their children.
Friendship is different. We select our friends and for this, I am truly thankful! But since Christ is our perfect role model, I want to suggest a few things before establishing a new friendship. John 15:16
#1-PRAY! Jesus sought God’s wisdom before selecting His twelve apostles.
“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles.”
Luke 6:12-13 (NKJV)
#2- Jesus was proactive in His friend choices, not reactive. Not everyone who wanted to be close to Jesus was given that access. He had His inner circle of three (Peter, James, John-Mark 9:2) and His 12 disciples. Therefore, we too should determine in our hearts who to pursue in friendship. Proactively choose people based on a leading from the Lord.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” John 15:16 (NKJV)
#3-The friends of Jesus received His words, even when they were hard to grasp/accept.
“On hearing it, many of His disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’” John 6:60-61 (NKJV)
“’But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, ‘Therefore, I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’ From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” John 6:64-68
#4-Your closest friends should share your faith! Only true believers will understand your desire to obey God’s will in all things. This does not mean you should not have friends who do not follow Christ. But when it comes to your own “inner circle,” be wise and select friends who walk in obedience to God and pursue His righteousness.
“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” John 15:14 (NKJV)
I am thankful for many things but today I praise God for the special friends in my life. Praise be to God for the special friends who enrich my life!