All of us know that the old commandment was to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” (Lev. 19:8) and Jesus quoted it (Matthew 19:19; 22:39) accurately. In today’s gospel reading, we hear Jesus commanding us to love one another. There are many reasons why Jesus commands us to love because if we do not love it is like committing a murder, nothing less. That is why Morton Kelsey, a psychologist and religious author, in his book, Set Your Hearts on the Greatest Gift. Living the Art of Christian Love, (p. 106) writes: “If we love, we create, heal and release in those around us a power that seldom fails. If we do not love, we join the forces of the evil one and destroy as effectively as if we were triggering a machine gun into a defenseless crowd. If we love, we step into the circle of the very creative life of God. If we do not love, do not in our hearts go out in compassion and show love in action, then we step into the down-draft of evil which is destroying the world we live in. What a terrible responsibility God and life have put into our hands.”
But when He speaks from Himself He says “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” (v. 12). There is a great difference between the way our neighbor might love us and the way that Jesus loves us. Unless we love one another in the Spirit of Jesus, our love is very likely to be narcissistic or a disguised form of control, or a projection of some private struggle. ‘Love’ covers a multitude, in every sense.
And the gospel today shows us that our love for God is a love of friendship. He says: “You are my friends, if you do what I command you.” To be a friend of God is a great gift. There are many instances as stated in the Holy Bible where God makes friends with human beings like a man. Like for example, Abraham is called the friend of God (Is. 41:8). God speaks with Abraham as a man speaks with his friend (Ex. 33:11). Jesus calls His disciples His friends and not His servants. What does it mean to be a friend of God? Friendship with God certainly entails a loving relationship which goes beyond mere duty and obedience. Jesus’ discourse on friendship and brotherly love echoes the words of Proverbs: “A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity,” (Prov. 17:17).
Like love, today friendship is easily misrepresented by us. But friendship is more than convenience, mutual tolerance or mutual utility. Friends not only share love, they share secrets and intimate knowledge. Friendship implies an intimate sharing of goods. It involves familiarity and ease in mutual dealings. An old Jewish proverb says: “A friend is one who warns you.” Spiritual writers talk about the practice of “presence of God.” God is present in our hearts as a good friend. We can maintain a conversation and dialogue with Him as we go about our tasks for the day.
At the end, if we want to be true friends, let us maybe listen to these advices (from Common Ground, January, 1990):
- When you are with people, be aware of their likes and dislikes.
- Remember friend’s birthdays and anniversaries.
- Take interest in and cultivate relationships with your friend’s children.
- Become need sensitive
- Keep in touch by phone.
- Express what you like about your relationship with another person.
- Serve your friends in thoughtful, unexpected ways.
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