To Be Called Friend
Walking the Road of Love
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I was recently watching an epic livestream hosted by Homebrewed Christianity preparing for a planned Christmas watch of the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films in their extended editions. For three hours, Tripp Fuller, Craig Boyd, and Nick Polk talked Tolkien, shared clips of the movies with commentary, shared personal connections, and truth of faithfulness. Among the many amazing insights and discussions, Tripp mentioned what the true crescendo of the New Testament is while discussing a scene. The scene in Jackson’s films is close to the book when Frodo tries to leave the Fellowship and continue on the journey to Mordor alone. Same of course realizes what Frodo is up to and refuses to allow Frodo to go alone. Jackson’s film has the interaction shortened with Frodo exclaiming he is going to Mordor alone. Sam tells him, “Of course you are, and I am going with you.” Sam jumps in the river knowing he cannot swim because he will not allow Frodo to journey alone.
Jackson captures the essence of that scene from the books, but I would like to share the passage and its beauty of a friend who refuses to allow another to go alone.
‘Coming, Mr. Frodo! Coming!’ called Sam, and flung himself from the bank, clutching at the departing boat. He missed it by a yard. With a cry and a splash he fell face downward into deep swift water. Gurgling he went under, and the River closed over his curly head. An exclamation of dismay came from the empty boat. A paddle swirled and the boat put about. Frodo was just in time to grasp Sam by the hair as he came up, bubbling and struggling. Fear was staring in his round brown eyes. ‘Up you come, Sam my lad!’ said Frodo. ‘Now take my hand!’ ‘Save me, Mr. Frodo!’ gasped Sam. ‘I’m drownded. I can’t see your hand.’ ‘Here it is. Don’t pinch, lad! I won’t let you go. Tread water and don’t flounder, or you’ll upset the boat. There now, get hold of the side, and let me use the paddle!’ With a few strokes Frodo brought the boat back to the bank, and Sam was able to scramble out, wet as a water-rat. Frodo took off the Ring and stepped ashore again. ‘Of all the confounded nuisances you are the worst, Sam!’ he said. ‘Oh, Mr. Frodo, that’s hard!’ said Sam shivering. ‘That’s hard, trying to go without me and all. If I hadn’t a guessed right, where would you be now?’ ‘Safely on my way.’ ‘Safely!’ said Sam. ‘All alone and without me to help you? I couldn’t have a borne it, it’d have been the death of me.’ ‘It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,’ said Frodo, ‘and I could not have borne that.’ ‘Not as certain as being left behind,’ said Sam. ‘But I am going to Mordor.’ ‘I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.’ ‘Now, Sam,’ said Frodo, ‘don’t hinder me! The others will be coming back at any minute. If they catch me here, I shall have to argue and explain, and I shall never have the heart or the chance to get off. But I must go at once. It’s the only way.’ ‘Of course it is,’ answered Sam. ‘But not alone. I’m coming too, or neither of us isn’t going. I’ll knock holes in all the boats first.’ (LOTR 405–406)
Tripp explained how this scene reflects a view of God as never letting us walk alone. God is there when we say or walk in the shadows of death as in Psalm 23 says, “Of course you are going there, and I AM going with you.” God is like Sam Gamgee because God does not forsake us nor allow us to walk alone into our Mordors. Tripp explains that the crescendo of the New Testament mirrors this idea. While 1 John’s “God is love” is a resonating truth across scripture, it is also only possible because of what Jesus says in John 15. I want to quote from the First Nations Version because it just hits harder with the truth in the story.
In the same way the Father loves me, I have loved you. Never stop walking this road of love. By doing what the Father has told me, I have remained in his love. As you walk in my ways, my love will remain in you. I am saying this so your hearts will be filled with the same joy I have. To walk the road with me, you must love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater way to show love to friends than to die in their place. You are my friends if you walk in my ways and do what I say. I no longer see you as my servants but as friends. Masters do not share their hearts and plans with their servants, but I have shown you everything I have heard from my Father. (Jon 15:9–15 FNV)
“I no longer see you as my servants but as friends.” Boom! That is the crescendo of the New Testament. It is central to the entire Christ event. This explains the incarnation, the purpose of Jesus' ministry, the cross, and resurrection. It is the relational God who beckons and lures us as friend. Forget the scandal of the cross, the scandal of a God who calls humanity friend is a shout of exultant beauty into a universe longing for reconciliation. The Gospels, while the story of Jesus, are also the stories human beings tell in which they cannot imagine not having their friend with them. They are like the stories we tell that include those we lose, but our stories cannot be told without them. The stories of friends intertwined in love and belonging.
Of course, the Gospel does not end there and neither does the New Testament. But the truth of God being love is that we are welcomed into that love as friends, not servants. We are welcomed to “never stop walking this road of love” and be with our friend. What does it mean to walk in the ways of Jesus? It means loving God, loving neighbor, loving and caring for enemy, visiting the sick and imprisoned, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, serving the thirsty, and becoming like Jesus. Walking the road of love means we are active as disciples and that we never walk alone; the one who calls us friend is walking that path with us.
Will you walk the road with me? Jesus calls you friend, so I call you friend. We are beckoned to journey the road of love as friends of the transcendently immanent God of relationship and story. If we get those simple words of loving God and neighbor/enemy, we really cannot go wrong. I see you walking that path that you feel you must walk and, of course, I am going with you.