There is a term that is commonly used by young people when they refer to their boyfriend/girlfriend, and the term is “BAE” What this acronym means is “Before Anyone Else” Before Anyone Else, my boyfriend or girlfriend comes first. Today I want you to understand this, Before Anyone Else, Jesus. Jesus needs to be our first and our last, in every area of our lives. He needs to occupy the throne of our hearts, before anyone else. Before we pursue any friendships here on earth, it is God’s desire and will for us to have a friendship with Him first. This is because any friendship that we have with each other here on earth, Jesus has to be the standard.
The Word of God has to be the foundation that we build on in order to have effective and fruitful friendships. God loves it when we have friendships that glorify Him. God Himself has never been alone. Never. He is a God of community and lives it out in every aspect of His being. He shows this by the way He has always ruled with Jesus and the Holy Spirit by His side. (Genesis 1:26-27) During His time here on earth, Jesus modeled friendship for us, He lived in a community of friends with His twelve disciples. There is no way around this, God has created us to do life with others.
The goal of true Biblical friendship is about helping each other become fully devoted followers of Christ. (Proverbs 27:17) Today, I want us to draw some Biblical lessons from Jesus’ life while He was still here on earth. In life, a lot of us have the temptation to isolate ourselves because it is easier. It is easier to seek to be independent without other people’s opinions weighing in our lives. It is easier to make decisions alone without others interfering in our business, but God didn’t create us to be independent. Do not fall into the trap of isolation. God created friendships as a support system that helps us make and keep Christ as our first priority, protect and encourage us when satan or others tell us we are worthless. Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10 alludes the following “Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor, for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.
God created friendships as a support system that helps us make and keep Christ as our first priority.
The first thing we need to understand in our pursuit of friendships here on earth is that; we bring God glory by loving other believers. When we were born again, we became a part of God’s family. Following Christ is not just a matter of believing; it also includes belonging and learning to love the family of God. John wrote, “Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life.” (1 John 3:14-16) Paul said, “Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.” (Romans 15:7) It is our responsibility to learn how to love as God does, because God is love, and it honors Him. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) Love must drive us in our friendships.
The second thing we need to envisage in our friendships is that of Service. God is pleased with us when we serve our friends. Peter exhorts that “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another…” (1 Peter 4:10 ) To form and sustain lasting friendships, we must be ready to sacrifice and serve. This ultimately means that we have to be willing to put others first. The most capturing story in the Bible that illustrates this point is when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. John records the following “So if I, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet as well”- (John 13:14) Service was never below Jesus, it was His way of living, it should therefore never be below us.
Our generation as Afrika Mhlophe would label it is “narcissistic.” This means we live in a “self-absorbed” era. Instead of acts of service for one other, we get people who are constantly asking “what do I get in this? Or what’s in it for me?” Even the Church of Christ has been turned into a platform for people to be seen instead of true worship through acts of service to the Father. The instruction of service and sacrifice has become foreign in friendships. Friends look for opportunities in friendships instead of serving one another, and what we end up having is empty friendships that are full of jealousy, envy, gossips and hypocrisy. God has called each one of us to advance His kingdom in every area of our lives, including friendships. It is for His glory we do this, not ours. (Hebrews 2:10) We do not need to be stars of the moment, a star was born two thousand years ago, and all we need to be is servants in our generation.
The third point that I want us to look into is that of Integrity. Jesus’ friendships in the Bible portrayed integrity. He was an honest and noble man, and because of this all who were around Him were transformed. A person of integrity seeks to follow the Lord’s will in everything. John records Jesus’ words as follows “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.”- (John 6:38) Jesus is called a “friend of sinners” not “a friend who loves sin.” Jesus’ friends in the bible, just like you and me, were sinners but through their encounter with Jesus, they were left transformed. We can never encounter Jesus and be left the same again. Never. Are those around you impacting your life in a negative or positive way? Paul warned the church in Corinth that “…bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33) Are you around people who are constantly speaking negatively about life? What is their take on the issues of life? Is doing life with them transforming you? Are you proud to be seen with them? Or do you pretend to be excluded from them when your leader from church appears? Integrity is essential in our friendships.
Lastly, godly friendships must push us towards our true identity. Discovering your true identity is discovering your creator. You need friends that constantly drive you towards God. I want to emphasize this by pointing out the life of Peter. One of Jesus’ closest friends. When Jesus met Peter, his name was Simon, a fisherman but after his encounter with Jesus, his name was changed to Peter (the rock), a fisher of men. Jesus showed Peter who he is not and pointed out his true identity in Christ.
Rick Warren in his book “The Purpose-Driven Life” describes this concept of having relationships with others as our second purpose here on earth. The first begins with God. Jesus is BAE. We are called to do life together, but every friendship must bring God glory through loving one another well, serving well, through integrity and upholding one another’s true identity in Christ. I want to end off with the words from an old hymn that reads as follows:
“Oh what a friend we have in Jesus …oh what peace we often forfeit… all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”