Life literature goal accomplished: today, I officially completed the Lord of the Rings series. I thoroughly enjoyed them, and was surprised at how much better the books were than the films. Of course, my heart will always belong to the Battle of Gondor scene when Orlando Bloom dispatches an oliphaunt in six seconds. 

One thing that strikes me even more after reading the series is the unbreakable bond of friendship between Sam and Frodo. Sam’s love for his friend and master is displayed time and time again throughout their perilous adventure to destroy the source of Sauron’s power, the One Ring. Sean Astin portrays this deep affection and loyalty stunningly well in the films, giving due credit to the Samwise Gamgee of Tolkien’s world of words. Something I find so remarkable with Sam is that he is never described as brave, valiant, or a warrior; yet, he becomes all of these things because of the extent of his love for Frodo. This pure, beautiful friend-love is shown most keenly in the third book when he carries his master because he can’t walk anymore due to the exhaustion from their quest and the evil effect of the Ring. 

With Christians, because of our unity in our Lord and the Holy Spirit, we have such a capacity for friendship. Think about it: Christ-followers are the only people on earth who can understand what love really is and demonstrate true love by the grace of God. After all, if you haven’t experienced unconditional love and saving mercy and life-changing truth and forgiveness, how can you possibly turn and demonstrate those things to someone else? “We know love by this, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). 

Love is UN-human. In our selfishness, we are incapable of doing things purely out of love for others, because at our unredeemed cores we are evil and sinful beings. The “love” society flouts today can be easily broken down to lust. Without Christ, we can’t really love at all! But with Christ….

We can love, because we have been loved first (1 John 4:19). I had the opportunity to meet with a friend over coffee who is investigating Christianity. She’s been coming to my church and reading the Bible, looking for answers. She told me that she’s never met Christians before who are so kind and genuine and loving. Everyone she’s ever known who claimed to follow Jesus was an imposter. You can only go so far in play-acting without being truly redeemed, because you can’t really love!

The Scriptures tell us that love doesn’t happen by accident; it is an intentional choice to sacrificially give yourself to another, to serve, to act like Jesus, to resist the flesh’s selfishness, pride, anger, and impatience. Friendships don’t just happen.

Walking by the Spirit, who demonstrates his presence in our lives through love among other things, doesn’t just happen, either. Galatians 5:16 (“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh”) doesn’t include a passive verb. Be reminded that the only reason we can walk in this way because of the One who has called us!

It’s a blessed thing to love others and receive love in return; to make friends and have others call you “friend”; and to see God working in the lives of those around you as prayers are answered and he provides. Thank you, Father, that I can see what love is. Thank you, God, for friendship.