The following lyrics from one of my favorite hymns are well known to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church). It is sung often in Mormon sacrament meetings held on Sunday. Written in the 1700s by Samuel Medley, the words reflect the connection I feel toward Jesus Christ when life’s experiences require His help. He is my Redeemer, my Savior, and my Friend.
He lives, my kind, wise heav’nly Friend.
He lives and loves me to the end. . . .
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives.”1
“I Am the True Vine”
Webster’s dictionary defines the word friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.”
I recently attended a dinner held in the beautiful Hobble Creek Canyon of Utah. The guest speaker read John 15:1 and spoke about our relationship with Jesus Christ and God. With grapes and pumpkins ripening on vines in my yard, I could easily picture Christ’s image, “I am the true vine,” and thought about my relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus, about how I am connected to them and thrive because of them.
In the springtime, a kind man in my neighborhood stops by to help me prune my grape vines. He has been mentoring me for several years. He had noticed that I didn’t know how to prune them correctly because my vines were not bearing fruit. With his help, I now have a plentiful harvest each year. I recently pruned my pumpkin vines too, helping them to bear larger pumpkins.
“I am the true vine” is a beautiful, compelling way to begin a chapter that focuses on the fruits of friendship and love. Heavenly Father, the husbandman, prunes the vines (refines us) so that we can be fruitful, which glorifies Him and will bring us joy (verses 8, 11). We are the branches on the vine (verse 5), dependent upon Jesus for life and well-being. If we are cut off from Him (separate ourselves, either by choice or by sin), we wither and die (verses 5–6).
In giving life to us, Jesus demonstrates His love and friendship for us.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you (John 15:11–14).
As the true vine, Jesus is attached to us. He atoned for us and redeemed us because He loves and esteems His Father—and He loves and esteems us. He teaches us that we are His friends when we obey His commandments and serve Him.
“A Favored Companion”
Webster’s offers another definition for the word friend: “a favored companion.”
The New Testament indicates that Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus were some of Jesus’ favored companions. “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus” (John 11:5). We are treated to a glimpse into their relationship. Their friendship seems reciprocal; Jesus comes to Martha’s home to spend time with them, and they ask Him to come when Lazarus had died. The best friendships are reciprocal. Friends trust each other and support each other. Jesus trusts me and supports me; do I do the same for Him?
A Friend to Jesus
When we obey Jesus and serve him, we are considered His friends. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). In James 2:23, Abraham was called the friend of God because he believed God. His life was a pattern of obedience and service to God.
I want to be a friend to Jesus Christ. I want Him to be confident that I will listen to Him and obey Him. Each day I work to earn His trust.
Jesus is our friend because He atoned for us. He listens to us, teaches us, comforts us, and loves us. He is our example and our favored companion. We pray to our Father through Him. We listen to Him, love Him, obey Him, and revere Him. He is the true vine, our True Friend.
1. “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 136.