I want to tell you about my best friend.  I met him when I was 12 years old.  We have known each other for 35 years.  He knows everything about me, and yet I am still getting to know him more each day. He is simply amazing.  Let me try to describe him with three words: Love, Truth, and Grace.

First, his love for me and for all of you is unfathomable.  It is easy to love people we agree with, but he said, “If you only love those who love you, what good is that?  Anyone can do that!  Love even your enemies.”  He loved me even when I was his enemy.  I lived maliciously, with envy, with pride and with arrogance.  Sometimes I still do.  His kind eyes look down to me in those moments, and he doesn’t look away.  Instead, his eyes are inviting me to talk with him.  Some friends abandon you when you really mess up, but not my best friend.  On one occasion when the religious types caught a woman committing adultery, they were ready to condemn her by stoning (as if that would take care of the problem; and where was the man, by the way?).  My friend just looked at them, then looked at the ground.  He began writing in the sand, and of course they were immediately convicted of their own evil deeds.  He didn’t need to say much, only “Whoever is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  They began to slither away, one by one.  He then asked the woman, “Has no one condemned you?”  She replied, “No one, Lord.” He responded, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”  You see, that’s the kind of love he has!  He loves me at my worst!  He loves you at your worst; he is not surprised by our cruelties!

Friends, it is not just his love that blows my mind, it is also the fact that he is truth.  He has a way of looking into a person’s heart and knowing his or her thoughts!  Questions sometimes came from the teachers of the law, you know, the lawyers- those who love to write the fine print, not just read the fine print.  They have a way of parsing every word!  Among Jesus’ contemporaries, everyone knew that God expected us to love our neighbors.  This one lawyer thought he would be smart- he asked, “Who is my neighbor?”  The Lord wasn’t going to let him get away with that query.  He told a simple story about a man on a journey who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead.  First a priest comes by, but instead of helping the injured man he avoids him- too busy with a church service, I guess.  Next, the choir director comes along- he doesn’t want to dirty himself before his “super-spiritual” performance, so he rushes past.  Who is the hero, the example of sacrifice?  The man nobody respected- the Samaritan.   The Samaritan helped the injured man, washed his wounds, and took him to the nearest lodging, even paying for a few nights’ stay.  Samaritans were the ethnic minority- the biracial group descended from the Israelites and the Assryians.  A proper Jewish person would do everything he could to avoid a Samaritan.  Then my Lord asked that lawyer, “Who proved to be the neighbor to the injured man?”  The lawyer’s prejudiced heart was exposed. He had to admit- it was the Samaritan.  Truth hurts sometimes, but Jesus tells me the truth about myself so that I can grow in wisdom and compassion.  Wouldn’t you want a friend like that?  Friends who only tell you what you want to hear are usually the first ones to run off when you need help.

Third, my friend Jesus is the epitome of grace.  His grace is the divine combination of truth, love, and justice.  Truth and justice without mercy is condemnation; love without truth or justice is naïve sentimentality.  But love, justice, and truth together; that is his grace.  It would be one thing, if from his place in heaven, Jesus simply sent down directions on how to live a better life.  But he came and walked among us.  It would be another thing if he lived an extraordinary life—which he did, don’t get me wrong—and lived as an example, dispensing wisdom from a temple until a ripe old age.  Some people wanted to make him King and thought he had political aspirations.  But he kept talking about how he needed to suffer and die.  I didn’t comprehend it at first, but after the resurrection and appearing to his disciples it made more sense.  He said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  That was me!  Is that you?  He said, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  In his death, my old self has died, and in his life, I am made new.  That’s grace, and that’s why I love Him. That’s my best friend Jesus Christ.