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How To Be Friends with Jesus’ Friends

By Jill Briscoe

Enrichment Journal Spring 1997

I never had a real friendship with another woman until I came to Christ. I was far too selfish. The essence of love, the most basic component of friendship, is self-giving. Since I was heavily into self-getting, most of my attempts to be friendly were usually polluted by a desire to get my needs met, to do whatIwanted to do by always setting the agenda and expecting my friend to go along.

Who needs a friend like that? Apparently not too many people, for I found myself friendless, lonely, and angry that the sort of people I was keeping company with showed little regard for me, had no loyalty whatsoever, and seemed to end up being more competitors than companions.

Then I met Jesus and Jesus’ friends, and life began.

I was converted at college in Cambridge, England, and discovered a whole new world of safe relationships I had not dreamed possible. My new friends took me to my first women’s conference, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. However, I began to notice something: It was so much easier to be friends with Jesus’ friends than friends with Jesus. Yet it is in the nurturing of our Jesus friendship that we find other relationships deepening and satisfying. After all, most of us—even women in ministry—can fall into the trap of expecting another human being to satisfy our needs when no husband’s love is deep enough; no child’s arms are wide enough to reach around our heart hunger; and no friend, however wonderful, is able to fill the place of God in our lives. It is unfair to expect them to and can cause huge problems if we do. In other words, when I am close to the Lord, reveling in Him, He fills my life to overflowing, and out of that overflow my friendships flourish.

That is not to say friendship is one-sided—I must always be giving and my friend always receiving. Both must give so both receive.

Where can we find a model or an example to show us the way to do this, and why is it so important? After all, women who are in ministry have such full schedules there’s little time for the luxury of friendship. It is vital, though, because out of the top 10 needs of ministry wives, loneliness heads the list. On every survey the women tell us, "I need a friend."

How can we be the safe friends we need to be with other women in leadership or fellowship within our congregations?

Examples abound in the Scriptures. For instance, God and Moses were friends. God spent time talking with Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). No secrets here—only openness, honesty, and delight. So what were the elements that made this friendship work?

First, determination—they both determined to spend time nurturing their relationship. Despite their busy schedules, they made their friendship happen (Exodus 33:7–12).

In the middle of the muddle we, too, must determine time for friendship—friendship with the Lord first. God made time with Moses, and Moses disciplined himself to make time with God, snatching the moment and being flexible.

When we served a youth mission in the sixties, my husband was an evangelist. He was gone for months on end, and I was incredibly busy. God and I became fast friends as He showed me His unfailing love. He also provided a human friend. But how to find the time to develop any sort of relationship with God or with Angela when I was so hectic being mom and dad to three young children, youth leader and missionary, and heading up a preschool and drug outreach? I learned to make friends with the people serving with me as Moses did with the young aide, Joshua (Exodus 33:11). God had given me the potential of friendship right under my nose.

When you’re in leadership, a close friendship can cause jealousy. But when I think of Moses and Joshua, Joshua and Caleb, David and Jonathan, and Jesus and His 12 good friends—3 close ones and one best one, John—I know it’s safe to go ahead.

Angela and I grew close and served the Lord together—a great seedbed for growing deep friendship. We captured the moment, determining to make it happen in the middle of the muddle and allow any jealousies arising to be other people’s problems, not ours. In company we tried always to make sure our friendship was inclusive, not exclusive. That friendship proved to be a lifesaver for me.

What else can we learn about growing our human friendships from the way God grew His?

God not only gave us models of friendship in the Old Testament but continued to model friendship in the New Testament when He came in Christ to reconcile us to himself. Gathering 12 men around Him to share His mission, He told them: "Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:12­14*). Jesus had come to give His lifeblood for His friends—His part to save them, their part to please Him and to lay down their lives in response. Agape love is primarily concerned with the other’s well-being, regardless of the cost to itself. Christ loved His friends like this. I must love mine like this too.

But how? He was God, and I am me. Yet for this I have Jesus. I can’t, but He never said I could without Him. By His Spirit I can. He can make me like Christ in my part of friendship. That is why I began this article saying I never experienced the power to be a true friend until I became a Christian. My self-getting was transformed to a self-giving lifestyle that elicited response and made real friendship possible. I learned to evaluate my friendships honestly, realizing I was only responsible for my attitudes and actions, not the other person’s.

Jesus modeled many practical things that can enhance friendship such as openness and honesty. He said, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15). Thus Jesus told us an essential component of friendship is sharing everything we learn from our Heavenly Father. My closest friends are women who have served and learned God with me.

God has gifted me with many women friends these last 25 years in pastoral ministry with my husband. Together we have grown a vital women’s ministry; had a grand adventure with creative evangelism; traveled to troubled Croatia in my work with World Relief; and have, in fact, shared not only His mission but His heart. Mixing our mutual knowledge of Jesus, we have enriched each other’s lives immeasurably. Fellowship, service, and sharing everything we have learned from our Father is what real friendship is all about. And I have discovered that I am responsible to initiate this.

So it is the presence of Jesus by His Spirit that gives me discernment in building my friendships—friendships that will last. Proverbs 17:17 tells us that "a friend loves at all times." Jesus was not a fair-weather friend nor in it for what He could get out of it. He always remains faithful, no matter how we treat Him. When Jesus’ friends misunderstood His intentions, forsook Him and fled, denied and betrayed Him, He loved on and kept His side of the bargain to love at all times. He washed the feet of the disciples who would soon run from Him, including Judas Iscariot (John 13:5). In fact, when Judas arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane to betray Jesus, the first word Jesus said to him was, "Friend" (Matthew 26:50).

Only in Christ and by His Spirit can we find the will to forgive, the determination to reconcile, and the initiative to make the first move to heal. Only in Christ can we find the heart to practice overcoming love as Jesus demonstrated.

Have you been hurt by a friend? deserted? betrayed? denied? Like Jesus, keep on loving by His power, and you may yet restore the relationship. Jesus’ disciples were to find in their post-Resurrection, post-Pentecost experiences a brotherhood that surpassed anything they had known before. Two by two they lived and worked in community. Two by two they took the gospel to the far corners of the world. Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Silas, and within the Twelve, brothers like James and John became more than blood brothers—they became brothers in Christ. They discovered that in mission and in martyrdom "a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17).

In my darkest hours my daughter has become more than my daughter—a precious sister in Christ. My boys have become more than sons—my brothers in Christ. My prayer partners have closed ranks, allowing my pain to become theirs—feeling it, bearing it, carrying it as true friends do. When it is their turn, I know He will enable me to return such love—only in Christ.

God is for our friendships—with Him and with each other. He modeled such, talked about it, and wills it. The only one who hates the whole idea is Satan, who doesn’t have a friend in the world and desires that we all become like him.

Yes, there are peculiar stresses and strains on the relationships of women in ministry, but there are privileges of such leadership too, and one of the greatest is friendship.

*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.

Jill Briscoe is executive editor of Just Between Us

[1] magazine, Brookfield, Wisconsin.

[1]Just Between Us is a 32-page quarterly magazine for ministry wives and women in ministry. For more information or to order a subscription, call 1-800-260-3342 or write to Just Between Us, 777 South Barker Road, Brookfield, Wis. 53045. Subscriptions are $14.95 for 1 year; $19.95 in Canada; and $20.95 in all other countries. Credit cards accepted.