A beloved hymn of longing for peace in pain includes the words “In my Gethsemine/ Savior and Friend.” In the grief of Gethsemine or the joy of the empty tomb, Christ invites us to look to Him as a friend: loving us perfectly, helping us commit and obey with love, and guiding us to be open and honest with others.
With a Friend, We Give and Accept Love
As He taught his apostles about love, the Savior assured them, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). We know that the first great commandment is that we love Him with all of our heart, might, mind and strength. Jeffrey R. Holland has added,
But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life. (2016, emphasis in original)
Because we love Him, we obey the commandments He has given; we know He loves us, and He knows what will ultimately be best for us.
The second commandment completes and extends the first commandment and first truth: that we should love our “neighbors” (those with us on the planet). As we serve others, we serve Christ, who loves them and gave His life for them, as He loves and gave His life for us.
With a Friend, Commitments Are Acts of Love
A friend who truly loves us looks beyond external appearances and behaviors to understand us as we really are—to know what we are thinking and what motivates and sustains us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught higher, holier laws that require inner commitment as well as outer conformity.
He wants us to give alms from love and concern for others, not to publicly show ourselves dispensing funds (Matthew 6:1-4). Prayer should be private communication with our Father in Heaven, with gratitude, adoration, and submission to His will (Matthew 6:5-13). Fasting also should be private between the individual and God (Matthew 6:14-18). We show our desire to be a friend to the Savior as we accept and obey His commandments in the private, personal way that He asks of us.
With a Friend, We are Open and Honest
As we follow our Savior’s teachings that we not “obey” commandments and practices to be seen by other people, we naturally become more open and honest with them. People who are more concerned with appearing righteous than with being righteous certainly do not fool Christ, and they may not fool their neighbors either.
When we obey commandments with love for our Savior, we also obey them with love for, not competition with, our neighbors. The Savior often reminded those in his earthly ministry (and through the prophets and scriptures all of us) of the importance of not living by our words alone.
A Friend Helps Us Toward Worthiness
I am among many who have explained in speaking and in writing that we do not need to do everything perfectly now to be worthy as a friend of Christ. As we do our best to increase in love and service to Him and to His other children, to keep His commandments in the private, personal way he asks, and to be open and honest in our behavior, He extends his friendship with love and encouragement.
At times we may be awkward and even hurtful with our earthly friends, but we can still care for each other, cherish our relationship, and help each other to move past difficulty. With our Savior, who is a friend in the divine and perfect way, we should give and hope for no less. As Elder Holland has assured us, Christ “who has never been clumsy or inadequate . . . loves all of us who are.”
He who bore the agony of the infinite atonement can share with us His power, His grace, and His goodness. As a friend, he offers us perfect love and eternal salvation; as a friend, each of us must offer Him all the love and effort we have and eventually will have to give.