I started to follow the teachings of Jesus while a student at Ohio University. When I relive those days in my mind, I see many old friends: Smitty, Mike X, Denny, Vino, KZ, and Bob C were some of those students who modeled to me what a Christ-like life looked like. Each of them urged me to consider the claims of Christ and decide on my response to who He said He was.
These friends supported one another physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially, and included me in their friendship network. I was amazed at the depth and breadth of the community life they shared. They used their individual strengths to compensate for the weaknesses of the others. They cared for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. They had fun without getting drunk, having sex, or appearing cool at the expense of someone else.
They lived life authentically as they could, talking and walking in what they called “brutal honesty and accountability,” because they told me the Scriptures called them to “live like Jesus did.” They showed me many of the “one another” statements of the New Testament (i.e., love one another, bear with one another, pray for one another, serve another, etc), but more importantly, they practiced them in front of me. It may sound a bit corny, but I saw the Bible actually being lived right before my eyes. They called it “living life like Jesus on two legs.”
Perhaps the strongest element in their relationships was the spiritual support I witnessed among them. They talked about Scripture and wrestled with its implications for their lives, all the while encouraging and challenging one another to be more like Jesus. I had never seen anyone “walk the talk” in terms of religious expression. I learned pretty quickly that these guys were the real deal. Not holier than thou, but they knew who they were following as their model and relied on the Holy Spirit and one another to help them “live like Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).
Read 1 John 3:11 and 16-20. Verse 18 says to “Let us not love with words and tongues, but with actions and truth.” That summarizes my early exposure to Christianity at Ohio University due to the examples of fellow students and teammates.
I recall another student who also had a profound influence on me and helped me in the early days of figuring out how to be a Christian. His name is John Nunnally and he came to OU around the same time I was starting grad school. John had heard of my decision to become a Christ-follower and we soon met and connected at the local Assembly of God church. He took an active interest in me as a fellow athlete, as well as showing concern over helping get me grounded in the basics of Scripture and the needed daily practices of my newfound faith. He also taught about and helped me receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues.
All of the students mentioned illustrate what Christian friendship is all about. The concept of friendship they modeled was not what they could get out of a relationship, but what they could give to someone else. They demonstrated 1 John 3:18 in generosity and kindness. The fruit of these friends’ faith was seen in the deep friendships it produced. They saw real needs and responded to them. They showed the reality that in giving, you receive; in sacrificing, you are blessed; in serving others, your own needs are met. To make a friend, be a friend.
Live communally. If you have never experienced the kinds of friendships I experienced in college (and since), follow the examples of my friends from OU. They have shown you how.
Love is a verb,