November 8, 2017

Friends with Jesus

November 8, 2017


John 15:12-15

Psalm 82

This week’s sermon text: Romans 14:13-23

In John’s Gospel, Jesus calls us his friends. This is astonishing! We talk about being disciples, but what does it mean to be Jesus’ friend? Many of us grew up singing “What a friend we have in Jesus,” but we don’t often think about friendship with Jesus as a reciprocal relationship, one that leads us to choose to live—and be willing to die—for the sake of our friends, for the sake of the world Jesus loved and came to save.

The theologian Jürgen Moltmann came to Duke in 1967 as a visiting professor. When his 4-year-old daughter came home from pre-school with A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You, he became fascinated with the concept of friendship and still writes about what it means to be friends with Jesus. He says that whenever we pray in Jesus’ name, “God is being claimed as a friend” (someone who likes you). We are joined with those who are named in the Bible as God’s friends, starting with Abraham and Moses, and continuing through the apostles.

Friendship with Jesus carries risks. In the Gospels, Jesus was known, derisively, as “friend to sinners and tax collectors” (Luke 7:34). Moltmann says that Jesus befriended those society calls “indecent,” not out of pity but “out of joy over the open kingdom of God. . . . By accepting outcasts, he gives them back a love for life.” Friendship is not only personal; it is public. “Open friendship prepares the ground for a friendlier world. It discovers harmony with other people, with God, with the earth, and surmounts discord by taking to itself those who are forsaken.”*

*Jürgen Moltmann, The Living God and the Fullness of Life (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2015), 117-128.


  • What does the term “open friendship” mean to you?
  • How can we be friends with the earth?
  • Can we be a friend to everyone Jesus befriends?


  • Find out about some groups that practice “open friendship” (ex: Open Table Nashville, Justice for Our Neighbors).
  • How can our church welcome and help friends who are poor or sick?

Gracious God, you sent Jesus to be our friend, and we are thankful and amazed. Help us to remember that he is also a “friend of the friendless.” Teach us to love and befriend all the people Jesus would call friends, for we pray in his name. Amen.