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By Rick Hulkenberg
As a father of five and past president of a Texas homeschool association, I’ve considered the best way to teach home-educated children the skill of friendship—how to best “get along” with others. Teaching children about friendship is important, but I believe it’s really a byproduct, a “result” of the most significant relationship we hold, our friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In John 15:13–15, Jesus tells us how He proves His friendship for us, and we for Him. In verse 13 He says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” In verse 14, “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Then, in verse 15, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”
What does our Lord say is the primary ingredient in His friendship with us? Sacrifice! Jesus was willing to sacrifice His life for us, and He rightly expects His friends to be willing to offer the sacrifice of obedience in return.
Now think about your human friendships. How strong will your relationships be if your motivation is your Christlike desire to sacrifice in order to bless your friends? We taught our children to be best friends to each other first, because that’s how a family stays strong.
Can you imagine the home life possible where children are willing to sacrifice for one another as Jesus did for them? It gets better! As Jesus tells us in verse 15, the byproduct of such sacrificial friendships is what so many people long for in their relationships: Trust. Jesus tells His friends “all things.”
Everyone desires to have close friends, confidants with whom they can share their innermost secrets. But remember that the Lord says that a servant’s spirit, a willingness to sacrifice for friends, is the prerequisite to such a level of trust.
We have to teach our children that every relationship will be tested. Ultimately, one friend will demonstrate sacrificial love first, as Jesus did for us. What causes us to question a relationship is when it seems we’re always the one doing the sacrificing!
I remember questioning a particular friendship for this very reason, and I asked my wife if it seemed that I always had to ask forgiveness first. She smiled and said, “Blessed are the peacemakers!” Now why didn’t I think of that? By “sacrificing” my pride and taking the first step, I would be blessed by the Lord as a peacemaker! Jesus joyfully sacrificed for His friends first. Oh, that we were willing to do the same!
If we teach our children to approach their friendships with a servant’s spirit because our Lord Jesus did so for His friends, their focus will be on giving rather than taking, and they will be well on their way to meaningful friendships, happier lives, and radiant testimonies.
Rick Hulkenberg is a father of five and resides in McKinney, Texas.