A young girl's compelling example poignantly illuminates God's definition of friendship.
Rachel de Beers was a young girl who lived in South Africa during the 19th century. Her family was poor, and Rachel and her younger brother Jamie worked as shepherds tending the family's cattle. One day Rachel and Jamie noticed that a calf was missing, and they began to look for it. In the course of searching they wandered farther and farther away from their home pastures. It soon got dark, and they realized they were lost. It was winter and it began to snow. The snowstorm reached a height during the night and then blew itself out the next morning.
Nothing in return
It didn't take long for a search party to find 12-year-old Rachel and her 6-year-old brother. During the night, Rachel had found and hollowed out a large anthill. She had removed her clothes, wrapped them around her brother and made him crawl into the hollow anthill. Then she laid her naked body over the entrance to keep him warm. The next day the search party found Jamie alive in the anthill, while Rachel was still lying over the entrance. She had died in the snow. Rachel de Beers gave of herself without expecting anything in return. And she gave everything she had! Rachel's inspiring example calls to mind the type of love that the New Testament Greek word agape ascribes to God Himself (I Corinthians 13:13). Agape, God's own love, is characterized by unconditional, unselfish giving. It is a conscious commitment to give without trying to get anything back. It is this type of godly love that true Christians are to radiate! The people who tend to inspire us most in our everyday lives are those whose actions are motivated by this type of outgoing concern. When we think about people we have considered our true friends, we usually think of people who have served us in times when we have had no means to repay them. When people are truly motivated by a spirit of give rather than a spirit of get, they serve others regardless of whether they will be repayed.
God's own love
From a physical point of view, it is easy to give to those who give to us. The real test of our Christianity is whether we can give to our enemies. Serving our enemies is the pinnacle of Christian love, as it involves total unselfishness. Of course, godly love is not something we are born with or have by nature. We therefore have to continually ask God for His Spirit of love — we have to ask Him to replace our human nature with His nature (II Corinthians 10:5). And think: When we resolve, with the help of God's Spirit, to love our enemies, it becomes much easier to love everyone else! By making a specific commitment to indiscriminately love others without expecting anything in return, we are building the very character and nature of God Himself (Romans 12:9-13). Love, after all, is a quality that lasts — forever. Our physical lives don't (James 4:14). When this life is over, we will be left only with the spiritual character we have developed by serving others, rather than with any physical possessions we may seek to get in this life (I Timothy 6:17- 19). That godly attitude and nature ingrained into us is what will fit us for eternal life in God's Kingdom! God never gets tired of loving, and neither should we. When we lock ourselves into God's way of give, we can feel real stability in this changing world, because God's way of giving is the only thing that is permanent (I John 2:17). When we unselfishly give to others, we are happy, because we are living the way that God lives (Acts 20:35). Therefore we are sharing the spiritual fruits of God's nature (Galatians 5:22-23), and we experience the deep-down joy of unselfishly loving and being loved.
An eternity of giving
At the resurrection, we will be born as literal children of God (I Corinthians 15:52). We will then be graduates in the way of give, and we will have qualified to live forever on the same plane as God — we will live exciting, new lives in the very Family of God, serving on an even grander scale (Revelation 3:21, 5:10, Matthew 25:21). We will then be love, just as God is love (I John 4:16). When we unconditionally give to others, we are acting out our destiny (I Thessalonians 3:12-13). This is why God says that "pure religion" is "to visit orphans and widows in their trouble" (James 1:27), as they cannot repay us. God also says that when we "give a feast," we should invite people less fortunate than us, and not just those who are able to invite us back (Luke 14:13-14). We become like God when we see the needs of others and supply them (I John 3:17). We grow the most spiritually when our hearts are dedicated to fulfilling God's great commission of giving a warning and also a message of hope to this dying world (Ezekiel 33:6, Matthew 24:14).
"Greater love has no one"
Our relationship with the world is one of true friendship when we totally devote our lives to giving to others. It is not the type of "friendship" that accepts and follows this world's evil ways, to be sure. It is the type of true friendship and love that God displayed when He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, so that the world might be saved (John 3:16). When we seek only to give to others, then we don't worry about others not giving to us, and we don't fear losing anything (Mark 8:35-36). "Perfect love casts out fear," says I John 4:18. When we are motivated by godly love, there is no fear even in laying down our lives, symbolically or literally, even for our enemies. Rachel de Beers gave of herself without expecting anything in return. She was a true friend. We can also look forward, even more; to the resurrection when we will meet Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, who laid down His life on the cross and did it totally out of godly love, expecting nothing in return. He is our truest, most loyal friend. As Jesus Himself said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."