Jesus and I Are Friends!
J. R. Miller
If we ask what was John, the beloved disciple's religion, we may put the answer into the phrase, 'Christ and John were friends'. It was a great, all-absorbing, overmastering friendship that transformed John. This friendship began that day when the Baptist said to two young men, as Jesus passed near, "Behold the Lamb of God!" The two young men followed Jesus and were invited to His lodgings, spending the afternoon with Him. What took place during those hours, we do not know—but we do know that a friendship began between one of the two—then scarcely more than a boy—and Jesus, whose bonds have never slackened since. For three years this friendship grew in sweetness and tenderness, and during those years it was that the wonderful transformation took place in the disciple.
We know a little about the power of a strong, rich, noble human friendship in shaping, inspiring, uplifting lives.
There are many lives that are being saved, refined, sweetened, enriched by a human friendship. For example, here is one of the best of the younger Christian men of today, who has been lifted up from a life of ordinary ability and education, into refinement, power, and large usefulness by a gentle friendship. The girl he loved was rich-hearted, inspiring, showing in her own life the best ideals and attainments, and her love for him and his love for her—lifted him up to love's nobility. She stayed with him only a few years and then went home—but he walks among men today with a strength, an energy, and a force of character, born of the holy friendship which meant so much to him.
George Eliot's 'Silas Marner' was a miser who hoarded his money. Someone took away his hoard, and his heart grew bitter over the wrong done to him. Then a little child was left at his door. His poor, starved heart took in the little one, and love for her redeemed him from sordidness, bitterness, and anguish of spirit.
God has saved many a life—by sending to it, a sweet human friendship. A Christian climbed the rickety stairs to the miserable room where a woman lay in rags on a pile of straw. She bent over the poor woman, all vile with sin, said a loving word and kissed her. That kiss saved her. Christ comes to sinners and saves them with love. That is the way He saved the prodigals of his time. He came to them—and became their friend.
It is to a personal friendship with Himself—that Christ is always inviting men. He does not come merely to make reforms, to start beneficent movements, to give people better houses, and to make the conditions of life better. He does not try to save the world—by giving it better laws, by founding schools, by securing wholesome literature. Christ saves men—by becoming their friend. John surrendered his heart and life, to this friendship with Jesus. He opened every window and door to his new Master.
The basis of John's friendship with Christ, was his trust. He never doubted. Thomas doubted and was slow to believe. This hindered the growth of his friendship with Jesus. We cannot enter into the joy and gladness of friendship, unless we believe heartily. Peter was one of Christ's closest friends—but he was always saying rash words and doing rash things which interrupted his fellowship with Christ. Such a spirit as Peter's, however loyal and courageous, cannot realize the sweet and gentle things of the holiest friendship.
But John loved on in silence and trusted, and his friendship was deep and strong. At the Last Supper he leaned on the Master's bosom. That is the place of confidence—the bosom is only for those who have a right to the closest intimacy. It is the place of love—near the heart. It is the place of safety—in the secret place of the Most High. The bosom is the place of comfort too. It was the darkest night the world ever saw—that John lay on the bosom of Jesus. But he found comfort there. Then trust is the secret of peace. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you."
That is what leaning on Christ's bosom means. Do not think that that place of innermost love, was for John only and has never been filled since that night. It is like heaven's gates—it is never closed, and whoever will, may come and lie down there. It is a place for those who sorrow—oh, that all who have known grief, knew that they may creep in where John lay and nestle there!
John's transformation is the model for all of us. No matter how many imperfections mar the beauty of our lives, we should not be discouraged. But we should never consent to let the faults remain. That is the way too many of us do. We condone our weakness and imperfections; we pity them and keep them. We should give ourselves no rest until they are all cured. But how can we get these evil things out of our lives? How did John get rid of his faults? By letting the love of Christ possess him. Lying upon Christ's bosom, Christ's sweet, pure, wholesome life, permeated his own—and made it sweet, pure, and wholesome as well.
So it is—the friendship of Christ alone that can transform us. You are a Christian, not because you belong to a church, not because you have a good creed, not merely because you are living a fair moral life—you are a Christian because you and Christ are friends. What can a friend be to a friend? Let us think of the best that earth's richest-hearted friend, can be to us and do for us. Then lift up this conception, multiplying it a thousand times. If it were possible to gather out of all history and from all the world, the best and holiest things of pure, true friendship, and combine them all in one great friendship—Christ's friendship would surpass the sum of them all!
Even our human friendships we prize, as the dearest things on earth. They are more precious than rarest gems. We would lose everything else we have, rather than give them up. Life without friendships, would be empty and lonely. Yet the best earthly friendships are but little fragments of the friendship of Christ. His friendship is perfect. Its touch is always gentle and full of healing. Its help is always wise. Its tenderness is like the warmth of a heavenly summer. If we have the friendship of Christ—we cannot be utterly bereft, though all human friends are taken away. To be Christ's friend—is to be God's child, with all a child's privileges. This is one essential in being a Christian.
We could not say that the apostle Paul is our friend, or John—but Jesus is living, and is with us evermore. He is our Friend as really as He was Mary's or John's!
Christ is our friend. This means, that He is everything we can desire. No real need can be unsupplied. No sorrow can be uncomforted. No evil can overmaster us. For time and eternity—we are safe! It will not be the streets of gold and the gates of pearl, which will make heaven for us—it will be the companionship, the friendship of Christ.
But we must not forget the other part of this friendship. We are to be Christ's friends too. It is not much we can give to Him, or do for Him. But He would have us loyal and true.
If a sacred human friendship exerts such influence over a true life, surely the consciousness that Christ is our friend and we are His— should check every evil thought, quell every bitter feeling, sweeten every emotion, and make all of our lives holy, true, and heavenly!