Friendships old and new. This week we had the pleasure of welcoming some old friends to our house, and spending some time with them remembering past times, when we attended the same church. We had not seen them for over two years, due to covid, but our conversation continued as if there was no intervening time. It was a day when we reminisced a little, but mainly caught up with where we each were now, and our hopes for the future. They told us how God was leading them at present, as leaders in the church they attend, and we reciprocated by showing them the new Hope Centre building and sharing with them some of our hopes and dreams.

Our conversation turned to the reasons behind what we do and the essence of what we are both trying to do in our different circumstances. We decided that life is about relationships. It is about how we interact with whoever we meet, and that should involve sharing the new life we have in Jesus with all those people we come into contact with. Building relationship with them so we can demonstrate by our actions what a relationship with God involves and introduce them to Father. God. This is made possible through what Jesus has done to restore the broken relationship between us and his Father.

I wonder what we will each be doing over the next few weeks? If you are young you will have a few weeks holiday. If you are fortunate enough to be working you may get a week or two off work. If you are retired then some people may think that you have one long holiday all year, but I can say from experience it does not seem like that in reality. Whatever stage of life you have reached there are things to do, people to see, These things change as we go through life but one thing that remains constant is the love of God for us. This is an anchor in the circumstances of living. No matter what happens to us, good or bad, we know that God is always just a prayer away. We may do different things, go to different places, meet different people for a week or two, we may even call it holiday, but when we return home there will still be the same circumstances to face. Perhaps it is illness, loneliness, or just struggling to make ends meet they do not just disappear, but friendships can help to share the pain.

If you are reading this, then it is likely that you are already involved with, or know someone involved with church. Even if you don’t I can recommend that this is a good place to start in your search for relationship. Human friendship can let you down, but a relationship with Jesus will never disappoint. Jesus spoke of our relationship with him, as the same as he has with his Father it is based on obedience. Jesus is recorded as saying in John 15: 10-12 (CEV) If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him. I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am. Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you. He goes on to say that he does not see us as servants, who obey him, but as friends. John 15: 14-16 (CEV) And you are my friends, if you obey me. Servants don’t know what their master is doing, and so I don’t speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me. You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last.

With all the relationships we enter into, they should focus on the needs of the other person. It stops us thinking about our needs and directs our thoughts on what we can do for others. This is part of the “fruit” we have just read about. Jesus has chosen us to be his friends, and obedience to him will make us “completely happy”. How does that work? We know that whatever we do to ‘enjoy’ ourselves, however long or short our holidays, it never seems to be enough, we are planning our next trip before we return from the one we are on! But a relationship of obedience to Jesus, following his lifestyle, putting other people’s needs before our own, is the path to true fulfilment, to true happiness. This is because there is now a purpose to our life, and as we live we can become more like him, “more people, more like Jesus”, and the world we live in becomes just a little bit better because we do what God wants us to. God is the creator of this world and he is the one who knows best, the right way for each of us to live, so it would be foolish to place our trust in anyone else and certainly not in ourselves.

Let us value our friendships, old and new, and live in the way God intended. May we remember our long-standing friends, and thank God for them, and for the new people he causes to cross our path. May we, by the way we live, make this world a little better. To restore in some small measure the peace and harmony that God intended, and recreate his Kingdom here by living according to God’s plan for each of us.