Last evening at youth group we talked about the obstacles and benefits of friendship. We looked at the text from John 15 to our springboard for discussion because of its emphasis on love and Jesus expression of choosing us to be his friend.
Image from Blog Hendersonville
John 15: 1-17"
1-3 "I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn't bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
4"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
5-8"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
9-10"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love.
11-15"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.
16"You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
17"But remember the root command: Love one another.
We drew out a diagram of a root. In the space above the root we brainstormed the things that spoil relationships, in the space between the roots we wrote the things that foster friendships, and in the root sections themselves we wrote different aspects of friendship that were mentioned in the John 15 scripture.
At the end of our discussion on the challenges of knowing what true friendship is and how difficult it is to really apply in this world one of my students asked for a piece of chalk and said - I have a really good visual - can I add something to the brainstorm?" I said yes and he shifted two of the large sheets of paper to the right. He drew a cross in between one section that carried across the area of obstacles and down to the roots section.
Finally, he wrote: Through God we can push through obstacles and make true friends.
I was amazed. His concise but profound statement hit the point at the heart. In life, so often people try to accomplish this or that - but rarely in invite God to be part of the process or effort. We try to accomplish great things while often being cut off from the source of greatness.
Knowing that this young man understands this point gives me greater hope for the future and fosters the desire for me to ask God who I might need to reach out to today.
God, who needs a true friend that I may be missing somehow? Help me God to see, help me God to be true to the friends you place in my path.
The photos below show the three panels of the tree root diagram. At the top of the paper we wrote things that can be obstacles in relationships, on the roots we wrote the parts of the John 15 scripture that talked about love and relationships, and in between the roots were the aspects of true friendships.