29 October 2011

Jesus Is a Friend of Yours

There is the Risk of love and friendship, and the Cost: when you give yourself to and for another person. Not only do you expend yourself, but you are open and vulnerable to being hurt (in any number of different ways).

To make yourself weak in this way — in love and friendship — is actually an exercise and demonstration of real strength; which does not seek its own protection and advantage, but extends itself to serve and protect and do good to others: even at great cost, and sometimes even without any reciprocity.

The Lord Jesus has exercised the greatest strength, in the greatest Love, by giving Himself for you, and laying down His life for you. He has chosen to do so in love, and He has loved you in this way, not because you were His friend — but while you were His enemy! — in order to befriend you; or, rather, to befriend you precisely by and with and in this great love for you, unto His death upon the Cross.

He has paid this Cost to love you and to be your Friend. And He has taken this Risk to open Himself to you, to reveal and give Himself to you, and to make Himself vulnerable.

Thus, for the sake of His great love, and because of His great love — for you and all the world — He was hated and persecuted and put to death. And by His own friends on earth, He was betrayed, abandoned, denied, and doubted.

You also have tasted the risks and the costs of love and friendship, and, once bitten, twice shy, it is tempting to flee from your neighbors; to retreat into yourself; to guard and protect yourself, by all means, and at all costs, from everyone else.

But the Lord Jesus has chosen you — in love — He has called you to Himself, and He has appointed you, to go and bear good fruits in His Name. Such good fruits are the fruits of His Cross, and they are the fruits of love: that you should love one another, as Jesus loves you.

He has befriended you. You, now, be a friend of His. Live as He lives. Love as He loves.

That means bearing the Cost — and the Cross — of genuine friendship for your neighbor; and, really, more than friendship. It means a divine love, even for those who hate you and persecute you. So that you sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against you.

You take the Risk of loving and serving and caring for your neighbor. You make yourself vulnerable and weak. You open yourself to hurt and rejection. All for the sake of the Love of God in Christ Jesus, your Lord: your Friend.

That is what the Holy Apostles did — St. Simon and St. Jude, and the other Apostles. That is what they did, and that is how they lived, in going forth to bear the good fruits of the Cross according to their calling and appointment as preachers of Christ; like the Old Testament Prophets before them!

It was certainly a Risk to be identified as a friend of Jesus. But, loving Him, and loving the world for which He died, they preached faithfully in His Name; for which they, too, like Him, were hated, and persecuted, and put to death.

Was it worth the Risk, and worth the Cost? Indeed, it was.

Their love was not pointless or meaningless, nor was their friendship with Jesus foolish.

For, on the one hand, as the Lord Jesus had chosen them in love, called them to Himself, befriended them, and named them with His own Name, so did He bring them through death into life with Himself.

And, on the other hand, their Ministry of the Gospel, though met with such hostility and violence, also did bear the good fruits of the Cross; so that the Church grew and increased and spread. Those who once were far off were called to the friendship of Christ, and they were born again to a new and living hope.

So also have you been called and born again to that same hope: in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.

That is the hope in which you take the Risk and pay the Cost of love: for one another, for your family and friends, for your fellow Christians and for your neighbors in the world, and even for those who hurt you and take advantage of you.

The Church into which you have been called — the household and family of God, the circle of Jesus’ friends! — the Temple and City of God, on earth as it is in heaven — the Church is not a “safe haven” in the sense that here you are free to continue in sin, to avoid the costs and risks of love and friendship, and to set aside the Cross of Christ.

But the Church, which is the Body of Christ the Crucified, is a refuge of repentance, in which you are saved from sin, and you are set free to bear the Cross in love.

You have heard His Commandment: that you love one another.

That is the life to which He has appointed you.

He knows the Risks. He knows the Cost. He knows the hurts and heartaches. He knows the disappointments and deep sorrows.

But, just as He has all things from His Father, so does He give Himself and His Life to you.

He knows the Risks and the Costs, because He has borne them for you — and God has raised Him from the dead. So does He raise you, also, in Himself.

Again, the Church is not a “robber’s den,” where you run away to hide out from the Lord and from your neighbor. But, it is a place of peace and rest and safety for those whom the Lord has befriended in love — for you, who are His friend by the Gospel.

Here, all your sins are freely and fully forgiven. Here, you are safe, and you are loved. Here, you are fed with the good fruits of the Cross. Here, you are given the life of your dear Lord Jesus. And though you do not yet see Him — but you love Him and believe in Him (by grace through faith in His Word) — what is now revealed to you by the Gospel, under the Cross, shall be openly revealed in the Glory of His Resurrection at the last, when your faith and life in Christ Jesus will be shown to be more precious than gold.

As it was for St. Simon and St. Jude, so it is for you, and so shall it be — for you and all the faithful — forever and ever: In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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