Jesus said to his disciples shortly before leaving them to face crucifixion on the cross, “If you are my friends, you will obey me”. Sounds kind of harsh, like he’s placing a condition on our relationship. But when I think of my past and present friendships and what is required in them, I remember growing up with a friend I’ll call “Alec”. Alec and I were close in age and had lots of similar interests. We lived fairly close to each other, out in the country, so there wasn’t always an abundance of other playmates around. I spent a lot of time at Alec’s house, even to the point of hanging out with his family at times when he wasn’t home.
I felt I was always chasing after Alec. I was always the one to go to his house to see if he wanted to do something – never the other way around. I was the one seeking him out. Sure, we would always enjoy our time together, but I was the initiator. At times, I sensed the one-sidedness of the relationship.
I invited Alec to my wedding and received no reply. No RSVP or communication of any sort about my big day. I was chasing him again. I then determined that Alec wasn’t a true friend. Sure, it wasn’t about him obeying me – as in the statement Jesus made, but similarly I had relational needs that Alec wasn’t willing to meet. There are always things we need to do for others to invest in the relationship for it to remain healthy.
Jesus gives us his direction to develop us, guide us and protect us. When we chose to willfully and systematically to ignore that, we are telling him that I would rather do my own thing than take your direction – a divestment in our relationship with him.
Jesus has only and always our best interest in mind. When we follow that direction, we invest more deeply in our relationship with him.