This [is what] I command you: that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another.
It was pretty obvious when I changed my group of friends in high school. The first sign was that my appearance was drastically different. I did not dress the same or wear my hair the same way. Beyond that, my attitude also changed. My new friends had other priorities, and I made them my priorities so that we would be on the same page. School was not as important as everything else that came along with it. The most interesting thing was that other kids who never would have given me the time of day all of a sudden were my friends now just by association. It was like the right person gave me that stamp of approval, making me worthy of friendship with the other nonconformists.
Friendship with Jesus requires that we emulate him. In today’s verse, He is commanding us to be just like him with respect to how we treat his other friends. Jesus loves his friends and unselfishly seeks the best for them. Here, He is commanding us to treat each other that same way. He is really asking for two things here. First, He wants us to treat his friends just as He would treat them. Second, He wants us to call those people our friends as well. If I am really a friend of Christ, then every single one of his friends is a friend of mine as well. I not only treat these people as He would treat them, but I welcome them into my life as friends. My arms are as open as his, and my heart is just as sacrificial.
It may seem strange that Jesus is asking us to welcome as friends a multitude of people we have not met and do not know. However, Jesus is putting his own stamp of approval on them by calling them his friends first. If He has accepted them, we should accept them. There is no greater endorsement than that of God himself. Anyone worthy of being friends with him is certainly more than worthy of being friends with any one of us. More than that, we cannot achieve the unity of Spirit that God desires if we do not obey this command. We must view our fellow brothers and sisters as friends just as Christ views them. Father, give us the love and openness to accept your friends as our friends and to treat them as You would treat them.