Jesus says: "You are my friends if you do what I command". When I first read that verse (John 15:14), I wondered how I would respond if anyone said that to me. I wondered what the disciples who first heard it thought. A natural response would be to reply, "Well so much for Your friendship! My opinion is as valid as Yours, and where's the negotiation when we have differences?" The difference is that Jesus is perfect in all His ways. I don't think it was said as a threat, "It's my way or the highway!" so much as it was said as a matter of fact. He had just told them, "Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friends". In retrospect, they would see that this was not mere bravado (unlike Peter's first boast) but that He meant it and He "not only talked the talk but He walked the walk" for their sake. The preface was that if we disciples obey His commandments, we will remain in His love. That is not a condition of His love in the sense of saying; "I will love you dependent on your behaviour". Rather it is a way of saying that if we really want to walk in life as friends, we need to be where He is. He cannot deviate from the path of God because God has made Him the Way. It is necessary then, if we want to be with Him as a friend and companion, to do what He did, that is, to do what our Father God commands us.
Sometimes however, it is a challenge to stay on course. That is why it is so important to have a friend or two to share the journey with us so that when (as for the disciples on the road to Emmaus) we just don't recognize Christ in our midst, at least later we can agree that it really was Him speaking to us. When Jesus first sent out the disciples, He sent them out two by two. He knew we needed help and companionship along the way. While we may acknowledge this truth, there seem to be few men who actually have a spiritual friend (sometimes we call them mentors) to walk with us. Even in the church, we often have a few buddies whom we like to be with, but they aren't ones we feel all that comfortable with when it comes to talking about what God is doing in our lives. We don't ask them to discern with us the direction God may be taking us, and there are even fewer we feel comfortable praying with about the sins we struggle with or the deepest hopes and disappointments we feel.
I would like to encourage you to try to find one or two people that you have confidence in as a spiritual friend and make a point of cultivating a deepening friendship with them and Jesus. Hopefully at some point, you can even agree together (covenant) to be accountable to each other in growing into mature Christians.
In Proverbs 27:17, it says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another". I suggest it is time to put an edge on your spiritual life, and God's way of doing this is through spiritual friends. Of course we can still keep our buddies and enjoy our fellowship time with them, but we will have no illusions that our spiritual friends are the principal friends God is using to bring us to maturity in Him.
May God grant you a friend in Him.
Calvin Brown is the Executive Director of the Renewal Fellowship Within The Presbyterian Church in Canada