Remember when you were a child and you made your first friend in school? Our earliest memories remind us of the importance of friendships. Everyone needs a friend and so good friends are a gift. Amy and are blessed to call on several as our dear friends. Each summer we vacation together and catch up on one another’s lives. For the rest of the year we are busy raising children, working our jobs and from time to time going to funerals. You see we are at that age where many our parents are also at that age. I just returned from one such funeral of the father of one of our friends. We all sat on a pew together and thought about our own fathers, some living and some that have passed on. Of course, that is what friends are for – sharing together in one another’s lives.
The interesting thing about our friends is that we are in many respects quite different. We live in different cities: Birmingham, Atlanta and Augusta. We work different jobs ranging from sales to homemaking. In our group are Baptists, Episcopalians, and non-denominational. We have different political views, effectively canceling out one another’s votes each election. What holds us together is common love and respect for each other.
“Friends” was how Jesus referred to his followers. “You are my friends,” Jesus says to those who would be called later to lay down their lives for one another. The Greek word for “friend” in the Gospel is philos, a word that theologian Raymond Brown translates as beloved. In the Gospel of John the two Greek verbs for love (agape and phileo) are used interchangeably. Friend and love is the same thing, although the English language cannot fully convey this relationship. One commentary writes, “The mark of the faithful community is how it loves, not who are its members.” (New Interpreters Bible)
The point? Easter is the common coming together in the aftermath of a death only to be dazzled by life. On this earth we come to the funerals of our friends dabbing our eyes with tissues and thoughtlessly eating and thoughtfully reminiscing. As friends of Jesus we gather too in the memory of Good Friday nourished by Easter’s abundance. We are “marked” not by external categories but by a common love.
That’s what friends are for…to practice resurrection waiting for the Resurrected One to call us together again.