The best kind of friend
You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. –John 15:14-15 (NIV)
It’s good to have a friend with connections. Someone who has already been where we’re going, who knows the way and is willing to help us get there. I’ve had several friends in my life that were willing to do that for me in a variety of settings. I frequently tell people, “I don’t know much, but I know people who know stuff.” One such person that comes to mind is my friend Mark, who lives in Honduras. I've known Mark since we were in the third grade. His story is pretty fascinating, with time spent in the US state department, corporate security at multiple global companies, and international banking.
A couple years ago, Mark asked me to help him with a business venture he was starting, opening a branch facility in Honduras for a San Antonio-based company that builds armored vehicles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSze9MwTpsU. His factory there, when fully operational, will employ several dozen skilled workers who earn wages that lift their families from near-poverty level to upper middle-class status economically, not to mention giving them access to training and educational opportunities they would have scarcely thought possible in an environment that is clean, safe, and Christ-centered.
When I go to Honduras to do onsite work with Mark’s computer systems, I don’t wander around town on my own. Honduras is a beautiful country, rich in natural resources, with generous, hard-working people. But decades of government corruption and mismanagement have left them with an infrastructure that is in severe disrepair, scarce and unreliable services, and a struggling economy. Per capita income for Hondurans is around $2500/yr (USD) and roughly two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line. That leads to a lot of desperation, which can make things dangerous. So I stick with my friend. He knows the streets, he knows the people, he knows the language, and he knows how to take care of himself if we should ever get into a tight spot.
On a spiritual level, I think it’s noteworthy that Jesus calls us His friends. Follower, student, servant, believer, child – those all seem pretty intuitive to me as apt descriptions of a disciple. They all carry the connotation of a master and apprentice relationship, which is certainly valid and valuable. But “friend” takes it to another level. That’s an invitation that tells me I am seen as someone who brings something to the table. He considers me a brother and a partner, having been adopted into the family of God. As a friend, I get to ask questions about the family business and understand the whys and hows. I am more than an order taker; I get to be part of the real work, riding shotgun with someone who knows the ropes.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. –John 15:16 (ESV)