Last Sunday, we talked about being friends with Jesus. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. So, I’m taking a break this week from my comments on the Sermon on the Mount to share some thoughts about this instead. Abraham is repeatedly called a friend of God in the scriptures. And Jesus says to his disciples in John 15:15, “I have called you friends.” Jesus explains that his friends are those he shares intimately with and who obey him by loving as he loves. I have been chewing this week during my prayer time on what it would be like to more deeply engage Jesus as a friend.
One morning, as I was praying about this, I found myself having a delightfully warm and content feeling of intimacy with Jesus that reminded me of what it was like to hang out one-on-one with a close friend in the years I was a college student and had a lot more free time to simply do life together with friends. After a while of enjoying this feeling, I found myself asking, “What makes a relationship with a close friend feel like this? How is a relationship with a friend different from other intimate relationships such as a relationship with a parent or other authority figure?” For me at least, the thing that seems different is the lack of any fear of being judged. I dearly love my parents and greatly enjoy spending time with them. But, if I’m really honest about it, I’m always aware of ways I’m not doing life exactly how they think I should be doing it and that I may be criticized in ways that will hurt. Even in my 50s, I find that this adds a bit of stress to the relationship that makes me more guarded. As I continued to chew on this, I realized that fear as a barrier to intimacy with Jesus is already explained in the Bible.
1 John 4:18 reads, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” In other words, in a relationship of perfect love, there can be a different level of intimacy because there is no fear of being hurt or rejected for failing to please the other person. Of course I’ve never had a human friendship in which love was perfect. But I suspect that the best of our human friendships can help us to imagine what friendship with Jesus can be like if we can get past our fear.
Sometimes when I pray, I get preoccupied with the fear that God will ask me to do something I don’t want to do. When this happens, I tend to have my guard up during prayer, ready to pretend not to be listening at any moment. But this week, I sat on the bed and just hung out with Jesus as a friend. I didn’t talk much since God already knows what I want and need. We just hung out together. And as this happened, I found myself thinking that it would be great just to do life together with Jesus as a constant and intimate companion throughout the day. Experiencing this fully would, of course, mean trusting that God really does always have my best interest in mind so that there is nothing to fear in opening myself fully to a lifestyle of obedience.
I hope to have more mornings like I had this week. And I hope to feel like I did that morning more and more at other times of the day. I’m praying for myself and for all of us that we will continue to grow in knowing Jesus as our friend.
Jesus, thank you that you have desired friendship with us. Free us from fear, and help us to trust you fully and to open our hearts and lives to you without reservation. Teach us to walk side by side with you in all that we do and to participate with you in your love. Amen.
Love in Christ,