True or false? “Friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them.”
(from the chorus of the song “Friends” by Michael W. Smith)
By way of background, Michael W. Smith tells us he and his wife wrote this song to honor a dear friend who was moving away. In an interview with American Songwriter magazine, he shared how the song received an emotional reaction from his friend. Fans constantly tell him of the powerful impact of the song when played during concerts, especially on people who may have lost friends in car accidents, through death, or simply through ending of friendships. The song seems to help people through their grief, by reminding listeners that Christian friendship lasts forever. As evangelical preacher, Woodrow Kroll is noted for saying, “Christians never say “good-bye”; just “until we meet again.”
While not always presenting truths from Scripture, the words of Christian songs often stick with us, giving us an anchor or even a mirror to consider our thoughts and feelings. Moreover, they may help us along the challenging path by which we seek to love God and neighbor, and, also, the way in which God loves us and commands us to love others. Obedience to the two greatest commandments requires grace from many sources. As Matthew 22:37 and 39 tells us: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
In this case, the theme of “friends” in Scripture, points us to Jesus’ words in John 15:15 “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” In other words, Jesus calls us friends based on the revelations of the Father’s love he has shared with us. From this, we may reflect on how well we love: on relationships with our friends, the quality of our friendships, and even how we interact with family and other people in general.
The Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 is a great place to start an examination of conscience in relationships: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” The admonition of John 13:34, takes us even deeper as Jesus gives us a challenging command for relationships: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This reminds me of one of my mother’s favorite hymns, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” written by devout Christian Anna Bartlett Warner (1827–1915).
The basis for friendships and indeed all relationships is our ability to see Christ in others. Matthew 25:40 reminds us: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Galatians 2:20 takes us to another level of Christianity when we are able to proclaim: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” This is a preliminary step to allowing others to see Christ in us. As John the Baptist revealed, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).
An insightful song-poem about our actions as Christ’s presence in the world is attributed to the Spanish religious Carmelite sister Saint Theresa of Avila (1515-1582). It was incorporated into the song, “Saint Theresa’s Prayer,” by Methodist rock guitarist turned Catholic monastic, John Michael Talbot.
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
There is much to consider in this poem, especially the admonition about compassion. Which leads us to the next consideration in relationships: Mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation are absolutely essential parts of friendship. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” Regardless of the offense, seeking and granting forgiveness leads to a healthy peace between friends.
We are made to live in community as the Body of Christ. We are commanded to care for one another as our “brother or sister’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9 and Matthew 25:35-40). We will be judged on the Last Day by the way we treat each other, seeing Christ in one another. We are also called to cling to Christ, so that our friendship with him is sound. So, if we have Christian friends, then we are blessed. If we do not have Christian friends, then we are blessed in a different way with the opportunity to bring others to the knowledge of Christ.
If we can apply the Scriptures cited in these songs to relationships with our Christian friends, then surely, we can apply them to other people in our lives: family, neighbors, co-workers, merchants, the homeless, customers, immigrants and pretty much everyone, including our enemies and people we don’t really care for. As we are reminded by the religious community, Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “Jesus reveals himself as the friend capable of entering into each one of our hearts. He brings the joy of knowing he is with us at every moment of our lives. He is our joy. He is our hope.” He is truly and singularly, our friend forever.
Lorena Needham is a parishioner of Saint Marguerite Catholic Church and commissioned lay minister of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.