In John 15:15, Christ calls us all His friends. There is an 8th Century Coptic icon hanging in the Louvre in Paris of Abba Menas and Christ which illustrates this verse beautifully. The French call it “Christ and His Friend”. This icon reminds us that Christ is our friend and He models for us what true friendship looks like.
In the icon, Christ has His arm around Abba Menas. Friends encourage each other. We encourage each other to do good things, to be better, to draw closer to Christ. Christ is holding scripture in the icon, and encouraging each other with scripture and prayer is what Christian friends do. Most of us are aware of our faults, and we don’t hear about them well from other people anyway, so focus on the good. Build your friend up in honest ways. Cheer your friend, compliment your friend, and encourage your friend!
Have you ever experienced conditional forgiveness? Maybe you messed up or forgot something, so you said you were sorry and your friend responded by forgiving you- but only within certain conditions. Your friend might say, “I’ll forgive you, but you need to do this favor or let me have my way for the next week”. That kind of string-attached forgiveness is not forgiveness. Be kind and forgive your friends kindly- the way you want to be forgiven, the way Christ has forgiven us.
Christ is ready to listen to us at any time, not on His schedule, but whenever we approach Him. Contrast the friends you have who listen to you with the friends you have who are busily composing their own response while you’re talking. We all think we’re so smooth we can look like we’re listening when we’re really only half-way listening, but everyone can tell the difference. Be a listener and hear what your friend is saying– this is a way of valuing and loving your friend above yourself.
Christ doesn’t deceive us with pretty lies. He is truthful, as we should be. Sometimes we need to tell our friend unpleasant truths. It’ll be a lot easier for us to say a hard truth, and for them to hear us, if we have a pattern of encouraging them, cheering them, forgiving them, and truly listening to them before we have a tough conversation with them. Be honest, but soften the honesty with kindness. Having the focus on our friend, instead of being stuck on ourselves, will grow our friendships.
Be a friend to others, the way Christ is a friend to you, and your friendships will grow. Welcome Christ into your friendships and love will abound.
This article is based on parts of the chapter on friendship in FLM’s book for teen girls called Woven.