Part 5 of a Series
"No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:15
Friends of God
There is a popular praise song that proclaims, "I am a friend of God... He calls me 'friend!'" The refrain is loosely based on John 15:15 where Jesus calls his apostles 'friends'. So we Christians like to walk around proclaiming ourselves to be friends of God and friends of Jesus, not knowing that some people in the world think us extremely arrogant for thinking of ourselves as such (not that it is wrong to do so, but we must remember we are friends by Jesus' merit, not ours.) Then when we evangelize we invite people into this "friendship" with God and some respond, but others give us a quizzical looks because, let's face it, friendship with a Deity is a mind-blowing concept.
"Will you 'friend' me?"
Facebook has transformed our use of the word friend. A word that was but a few years ago used exclusively as a noun is now used as a verb. The phrase "friend me" has become an invitation to follow our online personae as we update the world on what we are doing, feeling, seeing etc. It's as if this one social network, which has many positive uses, also has a dark side that tempts us to feel as if we are the center of our own self-made universe, and this universe is measured by the number of 'friends' we have.
Recently my 'universe' grew to over 230 friends. My sister has over 500. I even have a couple of 'friends' whose count is closing in on the 1,000 friend mark. But are these people truly our friends? Are they friends in the same sense Jesus calls His followers friends? Most of us would say no. There is no way that 1,000 people are sharing intimate moments with us. Only a fool would share the secrets of his life with 500 different people. Friends grow through trials, troubles and toils. Friendship takes work and effort to cultivate trust and communication, and for us mere humans, this is difficult to do with 3 or 4 people, much less 230.
So the facebook 'friend' is most likely an acquaintance. It may be someone we knew long ago and are interested in what they are doing now, but we don't share our secrets and trials with them anymore. Others may be people we know by face and name only. We might work with them, but we don't really know them. Still others might be friends of friends, so out of sheer curiosity we follow their postings. Acquaintances, workmates, former friends, these make up the facebook world we live in, but we should not think of them as friends, because in the truest sense of the word, they are not.
The Disconnect is Our Fault
Do you want to know why people look at you funny when you call yourself a friend of God? Do you really want to know why the dubious expressions when we invite them to be friends of Jesus? Here's the reason. Too many people say they are friends with Jesus when they are really a mere acquaintance. They view Jesus like a list of friends on facebook. They may have walked with Him long ago, but have since fallen out of step. They are interested in what He's saying or doing, but they don't have any real relationship with Him. They don't communicate with Him. They don't work on cultivating trust in Him. When trials come, they pray to Him, but it's for mere deliverance, and not for growth and maturity. They are acquainted with Jesus, but they do not know Jesus, and the difference is vast and catastrophic. And the saddest part, is that a world that desperately needs to see what a friendship with Jesus looks like, instead sees what you see on a facebook page; glimpses and snapshots, but nothing of real depth or meaning.
What about you? What does your relationship with Jesus look like? Are you helping the cause of Christ or hurting it by your example? Jesus needs some real friends to introduce Him to a hurting generation of people. Will you be that friend?