There is a tradition among young women to give their best friend a necklace or bracelet. Hanging off this symbol of friendship is usually a heart that says something like: “Best Friends Forever.” Many of these friendship bracelets only have half of a heart, in which case, the other friend has the other half of the heart on their bracelet. Although this is quite common among young women, the tradition of giving a very meaningful gift of friendship has it’s roots far back into the ancient times.
In Roman tradition (even practiced in the First Century) a token was exchanged by two who became friends. This symbol of friendship was either a tile of stone or wood that was divided in two. Each individual wrote their own name on one of the two pieces and the tiles were exchanged. These symbols of friendship remained in the family of each person and they were passed down to the next generation. To give an example, if a man traveled to a family and showed them half of a stone that had their late father’s name inscribed on it, then that man would be taken into the family with warmth and welcome; he would be considered by them a real friend of the family.
This ancient tradition is interesting to hear about, but it becomes far more fascinating to me when I see this custom spoken of by Jesus in the holy scriptures. In Revelation 2:17, Jesus says: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
Jesus’ mention of writing a name on a stone and giving it to another is certainly a reference to the popular Roman friendship custom of that day. What a beautiful word picture! The stone Jesus promises to give to those who overcome is a “white stone.” The color white symbolizes purity. The name written on the stone is new and unknown to everyone else except the one who receives it (i.e. those who overcome). I believe the name on the stone is just as symbolic as the stone itself and refers to a knowledge of Jesus that those who overcome the world obtain. Jesus illustrates this in John 10:14, saying: “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” Only those who have been given the stone of friendship from Jesus, truly know Him and know how to suffer for His name’s sake. Thus, they are a real friend to Jesus.
There are many hymns that express the beautiful picture of a friendship with Jesus the Christ. These hymns need to be sung with depth and meaning. Therefore we all must understand what the scriptures teach about having a friendship with Jesus.
In John 15:12-14, Jesus says: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” Although Jesus is speaking directly to His apostles here, anyone can find a friend in Jesus, as we just saw illustrated in Revelation. Jesus obtains a friendship with one who makes the choice to love Him. Thus, by loving Jesus, that person will be willing to lay down their life for Him and do whatever He commands. One must overcome the world of sin and gain the victory through faith. A friend of Jesus delights in abiding by the bible. A friend is always kind, patient, longsuffering, not puffed up, not a thinker of evil thoughts, not one who seeks after their own will, but the will of Jesus (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). I fear that many have the following mindset: “Jesus is MY friend,” when a more biblical mindset would be: “am I a friend to Jesus?” These two statements are vastly different, but take a full examination of ourselves to see exactly where we stand. Have we really been a friend to Jesus according to His definition of friendship? May we remember that even among mankind, a true friend is not made in a day. Jesus told the church in Revelation “he who overcomes” will be given the stone of true friendship. A friend of Jesus has been proven through the test of time and hardship that they will continue to be obedient to His commands: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Have we been a true friend to Jesus?