by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
In Hindu tradition, the city of Vrindavan, in India, is where the god Krishna came to Earth 5,000 years ago. Krishna wanted to know what it was like to be human. He liked the notion of human love so much that he wanted everyone to experience it. One observer, National Public Radio’s Alex Chadwick, has described Krishna as the only deity who wants to be a friend to ordinary humans. I have to respectfully disagree.
Hinduism may have beaten Christianity by about 3,000 years but we also have a deity who came to Earth and became human. He also loved and he was also a friend. For example, only a true friend would have given the tempestuous Simon the name “Peter,” or as we might say today, “Rocky” (Matt. 16:18). Only a real friend would have spent hours talking and eating with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and refereeing their disputes (Luke 10:38-42). And only a dear friend would have wept at the news that Lazarus had died (John 11:35).
Jesus didn’t eat with “tax collectors and ‘sinners’” simply because he was hungry and didn’t want to eat alone (Matt. 9:10-11), he did it because he cared about them and wanted to be their friend. He cared so much about them that he asked one of them, Matthew, to be one of his disciples (Matt. 9:9). Jesus’ critics called him “. . . a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’” (Matt. 11:19b NIV). He undoubtedly wore the label with pride. He was a friend to the very people who needed one most. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36 NIV).
Krishna came to Earth so he could learn about humanity; Christ came so we could learn about God (John 14:7). Jesus frequently began his parables “‘The kingdom of heaven is like . . .’” (Matt. 13:24b, etc.) He had no need to learn about human love since “God is love.” (1 John 4:16b). God made us and knows all about us. Instead, he came to show us God’s love (John 3:16, of course). Krishna came to live among humans because it was something he wanted but Jesus came to live and serve among humans because it was what we needed.
The good Samaritan in the parable (Luke 10:30-35) showed compassion to a stranger. If he is to be the example for our behavior (Luke 10:36-37), how much greater is God’s compassion toward us? John’s gospel has the answer: “‘For God so loved the world . . .’”
Jesus told his disciples, “. . . I have called you friends,” (John 15:15b NIV). He had already let them know what kind of friend he would be: “‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NIV).
Jesus came to Earth, to the town of Bethlehem, and was born as a human infant. He lived, grew up, worked, ate, loved, served, and died as a human being. But he rose again as the divine creator of the universe. With his death, he bought your eternal life and mine.
Jesus has called you and me “friends” too. He is the best friend you or I could ever want or need and he will always be there for us, no matter what the circumstances. Jesus told his disciples, “‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matt. 28:20b NIV). He made this promise to them and to all who would follow him, then and today. He is as close as your next prayer. But not everyone has the benefit of having Jesus for a best friend. Someone near you needs a friend. Someone needs your friendship. You can show Christ’s love by being a friend. And you can introduce others to the friendship of Jesus.
“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
(“What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” vs. 1, lyrics by Joseph M. Scriven.)
Copyright © 2005 by David Phelps