Frankly, I cringe a little every time I hear Christians singing, “I am a friend of God.”
It’s not that the Bible doesn’t use those words occasionally. Abraham and Moses were considered friends of God. (Gen. 15:6; Exodus 33:11) And, of course, Jesus was the friend of both sinners and the righteous. So, the idea of God being our friend is not unbiblical. I think it’s just unbalanced.
In our attempt to humanize God, there is the real danger of making him more like us than he is, or redefining our true relationship to him based on a few verses of scripture. And, how we think of God, directly affects our reverence of him. The right kind of fear of God is good for us.
For example; when I go to a friend for advice, I can take it or leave it. However, when I go to God and ignore his advice I do so at great danger to my soul and life. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
An unbalanced view
When taken as a whole, the God of the Bible is so sacred, so holy that Jews would not even say his name. He struck down people who simply touched his Ark, or got too close to his holy mountain; he caused idols to fall on their face before the Ark, demanded death for blasphemers. He made his first commandment that we should have no other Gods before him. I don’t have any “friends” like that!
Isaiah wrote this;
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.” Isaiah 6:1, 3-6
When my daughter, Jennifer, was young we joined an Indian Princess’ Tribe and did lots of great father/daughter activities. On one occasion, her friend called her father a nickname that my daughter thought was cute, so she tried it on me. I didn’t think it was cute at all and later, privately I told her why. “As much as I love you and enjoy being with you and want so much to be a friend to you – I’m still your father and please don’t ever forget it.”
Then, as today, we have an amazingly close relationship, and I’m confident now at 40+, she considers me her friend. But, the most important role I play in her life is father. I still have to remind both her and myself of that occasionally.
I have a theory
I think we naturally warm up to Jesus, because he appears to be the kinder, more gentle face of God – certainly more than the God of the Old Testament. But, they are both God. It’s not a matter of “which God” we want, but having a balanced view of God.
Jesus came to earth for two primary reasons; he came to die for sinners, so that we could be born again into the family of God and serve in the kingdom of God. Secondly, he came to show us how we are to live the balance of our lives on earth as citizens of his kingdom.
So this kinder, more gentle, “friend of sinners”, the forgiving, servant Jesus, and the life he led among us, was less of a statement about who God is, than a flesh and blood demonstration of who we are to be. In this role, Jesus was God incarnate, on earth for a time to demonstrate a whole new way to live out the first and second greatest commandments. He was a friend of sinners to show us how to be friends of sinners. He forgave the soldiers who crucified him, and Peter who denied him, to show us how to forgive and love our enemies.
People weren’t afraid of Jesus because he chose not to exercise his divine right and power to kill or judge, or even to protect himself, in order to show us how to “turn the other cheek”. Jesus chose to lay down his right as God to be worshipped with fear and trembling. Instead he washed feet. Nevertheless, Jesus repeatedly reminded us that he was God, and left us with only one requirement for his friendship. “You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:14 (I don’t have any friends that demand that either.)
Jesus today, sitting at the right hand of God is no less holy, jealous of other Gods, or more forgiving than his Father. They are one God. It’s just that for at least three years of his adult ministry humans were able to observe the ultimate show and tell. God became flesh to show us himself, exactly how we were to live out the grace and goodness of the new birth on earth.
The God of the Old Testament hasn’t mellowed in his old age. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, which means he still expects us to live in reverent fear of him. (Next week’s blog I’ll further explore the fear of God.) The New Testament Christians didn’t forget that and either should we. He is our friend, but far more importantly he is our God.
“Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.” Acts 9:31
“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.” II Corinthians 5:11
Question: Do you have another view of the “friends of God” perspective?
Following Jesus in Real Life