June 22, 2021

You Are My Friends 09-05-2021

9th May 2021 Sixth Sunday of Easter
Title: You Are My Friends
(Scripture Readings: Acts 10:44-48; John 15:9-17)
By Heeyoung Lim
Happy Mother’s Day! May the Lord bless your home and the places of your work with His grace and blessing. I hope that today will be a day of blessing for all mothers, and God’s special grace and comfort will be with those who have parted with their mother on earth.
We saw and heard the cries that Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter in the mid-2020 and witnessed hatred and violence against Asian in many nations and across the globe recently. Many people and protesters tried to call for equality, justice, and peace, but some of them had already died undeservedly, and many people around the world are still suffering from domestic violence and abuse. We cannot find love in all these pains, but today the Lord is telling us to love one another, follow my commands, and be my friends.
In Acts 10, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word while Peter was still speaking. (Acts 10:44) It happened before Peter had a chance to baptize Cornelius and his family, before he heard their confession of faith. Acts 10:44-48 refers to the ‘gentile Pentecost’. This is the fourth pouring out of the Spirit in Acts, this time prior to water baptism and upon even to the gentile. Peter exemplifies the transformation under power of the Holy Spirit. God is the subject of salvation; Peter was an instrument, not the source of salvation. The salvation has been through the inbreaking of the Holy Spirit even to the Gentiles. The Gentile believers also belong to the household of God because God accepts them as they are.
This accounts for the constant relational importance under the help of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who trusts in the name of Jesus for salvation receives the Holy Spirit and the privilege of baptism. Anyone who believes in Jesus needs to be welcomed to His body, the church, for God shows no boundaries and prejudices in the invitation of the gospel. (47) The gospel makes salvation in Jesus available to anyone who believes in Him.
Have you ever imagined that the Holy Spirit may have a hard time getting through our stubborn desire to stay the way we are? I think that the Holy Spirit is sometimes trying to break through our unnecessary boundaries and prejudices that have become rock hard in our lives. We can continue to pass on the good tradition from one generation to another, but we also need to open to the Holy Spirit that brings new message in accordance with God’s will.
The Holy Spirit broke the barriers between Jew and Gentile and propelled the witness of the resurrection beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem and Galilee. What seems clear is that Christians can rejoice and love in the Lord even in the difficulties of the world’s hatred and injustice. We live in the world full of boundaries, but Jesus’ invitation towards the salvation and the gospel is for everyone. Therefore, the boundaries of prejudice and exclusion need to be broken in the love of God.
John 15:9-17 continues Jesus’ teaching on abiding in love and the command to love one another; it tells us to keep the connection between Jesus and us so the relationship will never be broken. The quality of relationships is related to the life, message, and commands of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we remain in Jesus, our lives will be filled with joy and a lasting friendship with the Lord. Love is an absolute command for believers and the chief fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23). It is also the essential factor in our relationships.
John 15 emphasises the great love six times in today’s text the disciples will be told to love one another. The Father loves first; then the Son shows that love by obeying God’s will; remaining in the Lord’s love also requires obedience and brings joy. God is pleased when we obey Christ’s commands and follow His examples.
The Lord told the disciples he wanted them to experience the joy he had already found in obedience. He said to them, “I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am.” Jesus wants us to rejoice in the Lord. It is a blessing that Jesus calls his followers into joy. Christian life is characterized by ‘unexhausted passion for the Lord and unconditional love for others.
Jesus’ command is to love each other as He has loved us. He taught us that the greatest way to show love for friends is to die for one’s friends. Jesus said that you are my friends if you do what I command. (12-14) Only Abraham had been called ‘God’s friend’ in the Old Testament; but now the scope widened, and the Lord invited His disciples in. We are Jesus’ friends if we obey Him.
But we sometimes forget the fact that friendship is connected to obedience to Jesus’ command to love. A genuine love for one another is one of ways to show love for God; it can be a way to become Jesus’ friend. The disciples were Jesus’ servants, but Jesus taught them the way to become His friends. We need to remember Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God finds and loves us first. Loving each other is central to bearing fruit of life and will be a significant defence against the evil world. Jesus wants us to love others faithfully and fervently.
In Matthew 7, Jesus said that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit, by their fruit you will recognize them” Christians can glorify God by producing fruits as a spiritual character and a lifestyle as long as they remain in the vine our Lord Jesus. God wants us to enjoy being loved and to joyfully bear the fruits of love, He wishes us to take pleasure in living in love. I hope we can love each other as Jesus has loved us and choose unity instead of conflict, trust instead of mistrust, and obedience instead of disobedience in Jesus.
As we abide in the vine as branches, we have opportunities to relate to the other branches in right way. Many of us are vulnerable, but we can be a strength and comfort by our sacrifice for each other, sincere interaction in our communities, and respecting one another until everyone feel like blessed one.
The love God offers us in Jesus is unconditional and overwhelming. It is not leftover love tossed to us; it is life-giving love for us. Jesus says, “I love you in the same way that I am loved by the Father. We are being invited to share in the full depths of love that exist in the relationships within God, the relationships of sincere love between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Jesus points out that there is no greater expression of love than to lay down your life for your friends, and then he does just that. He lays down his life for us!
In John 15, Friends of Jesus remain in His love (15:9-11); Friends of Jesus obey his commands (15:12-14); Friends of Jesus love one another. (15:15-17) Remaining in the Lord’s love also requires obedience and brings joy. I pray we can abide in Jesus’ love, and I believe Jesus is in us and we are in the fullness of Jesus’ love. I hope His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
I hope that we can reflect on the process of growing into the words of Christ, discover how the life of a faithful community leads it into the joy, love, friendship, and being saved by Christ. We are all Jesus’ friends if we love each other as Jesus has loved us. Jesus calls us His friends if we do what He commands. I pray that we will love one another by understanding sympathetically, appreciating often, praying fervently, listening carefully, and sharing generously.
Being Jesus’ friends is truly a special blessing. I believe that God will renew us and transform our church by His steadfast love.

Thanks be to God. Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)