Jesus Does Not Want to Be Your Friend

March 5, 2012

Everyone likes to have friends.  The more friends, the better.

And as the word “religion” has become more and more distasteful, Christians have tried to bill their faith as a “relationship,” or even a “friendship.”  But definitely not a “religion.”  Religion sounds cold and ritualized.  We want friendship.

The problem is, God doesn’t want to be your friend.  And He doesn’t want you to be His friend.  And calling what we have with God a “relationship” may just be really confusing things.

God Has 3,143,158,604 New Friend Requests

The word “friend” used to mean something really specific.  It was more than an acquaintance.  We may have a hard time defining “friends,” but we know exactly who are our friends and who are not.  Your friends are people who have important things in common with you.

But in our Facebook world, the word “friend” suddenly means a lot more.  A “friend” doesn’t really need to have a relationship with you at all.  The most remote, six-degrees-of-separation-relationships can now easily be promoted to “friends.”  All it takes to be someone’s “friend” is to “friend” them.  That’s funny, “friend” was never a verb before.

Let’s Keep This Simple and Not Be Friends

We understand that there are lots of people we should not be friends with that we have very good relationships with.

Good parents understand that they are not their kids’ friends.  Kids can have plenty of friends.  They only get two parents, if they are lucky.

Teachers understand that they can be friendly with students, but they are not friends.  It’s why I don’t allow students to call me by my first name, or tell them my age when they ask.  Trying to bring “friendship” into these situations mucks everything up.

But when it comes to God, we like our deity the way we like a President.  We want a down to earth guy who we could have a few beers with.  We want God to be our pal…and to pay for everything.

That sounds appealing, but saying that we have a “relationship” with God is really misleading and kind of dishonest.  If we treated any of our other friends like most of us treat God, we wouldn’t have any friends in a few months.  If we talked to our spouses as sparsely as we talk to God, we would be divorced.  The fact is, most of us say we have a “relationship” or “friendship” with God, but we mean that in a Facebook friend kind of way.  It’s not the kind of interaction that could make a real friendship or marriage.

And if you do happen to be a really spiritual, “religious” person, think about what would happen if you treated your friends like you treat God.  It’d be weird.

And He Will Be Called…

…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, BFF.

The fact is, only one guy in the whole Bible was ever called God’s friend, and that was Abraham.

And God never, to my knowledge, called himself a friend to anyone.  He has nothing in common with us.  Kind of hard for God to be friends with anyone.

And Jesus, when he wandered around, didn’t ask guys, “Hey, want to be my friend?”  He didn’t grab some buds to watch the big game with and bribe them with six packs and hot wings.  And he certainly was no one’s boyfriend.  Not then, not now.

When Jesus met someone he wanted to enter into a relationship with, he defined the relationship outright.

Jesus isn’t looking for friends. 

He’s looking for followers.

Am I right, or am I right?  What do you think?  Have we let this “relationship” thing get out of hand?  Have we stopped treating God like, well, God?  

47 responses to Jesus Does Not Want to Be Your Friend

  1. “Jesus isn’t looking for friends.

    He’s looking for followers.”

    I think you are right in a certain sense. We ought not lose our ‘fear of God’ (respect of His power and authority).

    But on the other hand, He is a friend to sinners (real sinners who know their need of Him).

    But I think your point is well taken. None of this ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ stuff.

  2. Hi Matt,

    You’ve got me stumped with this one. I’m not sure how you handle John 15:15 where Jesus said, “I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends”.

    That Scripture puzzles me because, much as I’d like to think of myself as a friend of Jesus, I have no idea what He’s doing! Therefore, I am not…

    Maybe He was just talking to the guys around the table and John 15 has nothing to do with me???

    What do you make of that?

    By the way, I used Ned’s quote from Groundhog Day just minutes before reading your post. We sure approach that “Am I right” thing differently.

    John Cowart

  3. Technically, Jesus did say “You are my friends if you keep my commandments”. If any of my friends ever, and I mean ever, said something like that to me, I would unfriend them immediately and then slap the stupidity out of them. However my Lord and Master gets a free pass with such statements.

  4. So, considering Jesus a “buddy” is wrong.

    Yet, treating him like my high school algebra teacher is probably wrong as well.

    And treating him like an unapproachable Other who can’t be reached without several rosaries, animal sacrifices, and the proper Latin prayers is probably not right either.

    As with most things, the “truth” must be somewhere in the mushy middle.

  5. Ha! Yes! That could be a new joke. “Why does Jesus use Twitter instead of Facebook? Because he’s looking for followers, not friends.” I think Jesus’ guidance should be that of a noble mentor rather than a “beer buddy.” Yes, I agree.

  6. You are right, Jesus doesn’t want to be _just_ our friend. He was always a combination of friend, teacher, and God-with-Us while He walked on this earth. He is now a Savior and High Priest and, because we are adopted into His family, he is our brother. It’s complicated and beautiful.

  7. Technically, Jesus is looking for us to “be Him” here on earth. Jesus had followers when he was on earth. He also followed the Old Covenant, but since his death and resurrection, we have a new covenant. We don’t follow Jesus, he isn’t going anywhere; He’s already there.

    We have a new man, and the Holy Spirit lives in us. The same power the raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. Our job is to do what we see the Father doing. We have a relationship with the Father. We talk to him in prayer, and speaks to us. We simply follow his instructions moment by moment. We can’t snip out some verse and say well “everybody act like that.” Jesus handled every situation with godly wisdom. IE: The woman the well, the woman taken in adultery, and the question about taxes. There was no formula except to reach inside the situation with the wisdom of Heaven. He wept for some, he excoriated the Pharisees, he turned over the tables of the money changers, and healed some and not others. There is no formula except to hear God and do it.

    So I don’t think we follow Jesus. I think we hear the Father speak to us – the sheep know His voice. No, I don’t think we are friends. According to Song of Songs we are more lovers than anything else.

    I also don’t believe that God is untouchable, or so holy that we can’t look upon him or hang out with Him. Jesus died for all our sins and we can approach God as a son in the same way that Jesus did. All you have to do is lay down your whole life, and all your plans.

    • But the very requirements to “hang out” with God ensure that it is not just a friendship. :) Great explanation, David.

    • Well said, David. It’s been a while since I’ve been on this site but I’m writing a new post for tomorrow which is when I procrastinate the most, so I was checking out things in the blogosphere. Ironically, I’m writing a post on being in relationship with God.

      I’m bothered by what Matt wrote but I appreciate your fuller explanation.

      There is a duality to our relationship with God – now AND future. He sees us as we are already in heaven, so yes, we can have a relationship/friendship with God.

      The very term, Abba Father, denotes the two aspects to our relationship. Abba is a familiar term, much like the way we use Daddy, but Father is a reverential term to show respect and honour. We are both intimate with God but at the same time, there is no one like God and he is above everything.

      • Yes Andrea, but we don’t call our friends “Abba.” I think this is an important issue. In the church I attend, the “relationship” language is used all the time – and I think in the process, sometimes the gospel message is muddled.

    • I just finished a book by Queen Noor of Jordan. Her husband King Hussein had many close friends but on thing was evident even from her perspective as his wife… He was always the King. King Hussein was very close to his brother but even to his brother he was still the King.

      On a much lesser level this is our relationship with Jesus. Jesus said, “I will now call you brothers” even a brother knows when his brother is “KING”.

  8. “If we treated any of our other friends like most of us treat God, we wouldn’t have any friends in a few months. If we talked to our spouses as sparsely as we talk to God, we would be divorced.”

    Exactly. This shouldn’t make us reconsider if we are Jesus’ friend (after all, He says we are, in several places). It just shows how bad we are at being friends back.

    I consider Jesus my friend, along with all the other things that have already been mentioned, because we hang out together, we talk about anything and everything, and I can’t imagine doing life without Him.

  9. Scripture tells us there were people who were called ‘friend of God. Jesus called us friends. I know you know this and was trying to make a point. Good point but…

  10. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
    John 15:14-16
    Yeah, I get maybe not buddy-buddy, but still…..
    You know if we just spend a little time with Him, we do get to know Him a little better. I’m as guilty as anyone else of not putting in enough quality time. But I firmly believe He actually IS interested in a relationship with me.

  11. I think we could consider Jesus a friend in that in Christ Jesus, God is now for us, and not against us.

    Maybe our understanding of the word friend is a bit more irrevrent that it ought be with respect to God…but the overall meaning is probably alright.

  12. You make some good points. Especially when you talk about our own inabilities and failure to give God the precedence that we should.

    It seems to me that our relationship with God is one of those great paradoxes He seems to love presenting to us–like faith and works, free will and omnipotence, mercy and justice. In today’s day and age, we seem to have come down on the “God is my buddy” side of things, forgetting that He is holy, Almighty God. In the past, I think the church has been on the opposite side of the spectrum.

    The more I get into it, the more faith seems to be a balancing act, the need to hold two seemingly opposed ideas at the same time without neglecting either one.

    God desires fellowship with us. He is our Father, our friend. But He is also righteous, holy, omnipotent, so far above us that the thought of us having a relationship with Him is ludicrous. I’m not really sure how to hold both of these truths simultaneously.

    • Yes! You make a great point, that God is so much different from us that having a relationship with Him seems ludicrous. It seems to me that Jesus called his disciples friends in the human sense, but now that he is the risen Lord, and we do not live with him as the disciples did, so we do not have the same relationship.

      You know, I have a “relationship” with Paula Abdul. It’s okay. It gets weird when there’s a stalker who mistakes the nature of the relationship.

  13. Hi Matt,

    I agree with you to a point.

    This whole buddy-buddy thing between God and Christians has gotten out of hand. It brings Him down to our level–wrong. God is above us, always has been, always will be. While we are made in His image, we cannot be equal with Him, even when we are made perfect someday. His position relevant to us needs to be clearly defined: He is holy, we are not; He is almighty, we are weak; He knows it all, we only like to think we do.

    On the other hand, John made a good point in his comment about the verse where Jesus calls His followers friends. I think He means to take things a little further than other world religion leaders do. While people like Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph Smith, etc. seemed good at promoting why they were better than everyone else, Jesus proved He was…and still hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. See, there’s this thing called grace, and I’m really grateful for it!

    Jesus has His place. We have our place. And despite our screw-ups, the infinite Creator decided He’d rather die to be with us than go through eternity without us. That’s a guy I don’t mind following. The friend thing is just icing.

  14. This clearly speaks to me. I’ve often wondered why I didn’t feel like I had a friendship with God — even though I’ve heard many pastors say that we, as Christians, need to look at God as our best buddy. I truly wanted to feel that type of friendship with God, especially since I’ve heard that we all need to have a close, emotional connection with him. But unlike close friends that I can connect with on a human-type of level, I don’t feel that type of connection with God. And that’s because He is so high, so exalted, so omnipotent, so omniscient, and so worthy of praise and adoration. I cannot think of anyone else in this light . . . including my husband, whom I love and respect more than words can say.

    Thanks for bringing this up Matt. I was a bit confused, however, about what Jesus said to his disciples about them now being his friend. However, a number of others did bring that up, and said that Jesus in now exalted and sitting at the right hand of God. That helps because I see Jesus as being equal with God, and thus worthy of praise, adoration and exalted above all things and all people. That’s the kind of connection I feel with Him, and it’s the kind of connection that give me a sense of hope, peace and security in the midst of all kinds of trials and tribulations.

    • Angie , I feel the same way !! I’ve never once experienced this “friendship ” or “relationship ” and kind of fed up with people saying salvation/ relationship is the same thing – um it’s not !! Jesus is my savior but he’s never been my friend nor do I need him to be . He died on the cross to save me not be my buddy

      Im uncertain this “personal relationship ” is even in the bible

      What a Friend We Have In Jesus is from the hymn book not the bible

      Jesus is my savior but he’s not a friend and I’m not certain he was meant to be

  15. I liked your statement about “If we treated any of our other friends like most of us treat God, we wouldn’t have any friends in a few months.” But that’s the beauty of our “relationship” with God or however you want to label it, it’s unlike any human relationship with have, rather a combination of all of our different relationships rolled into one- only so much more than that! So my answer to your question “Have we let this ‘relationship’ thing get out of hand? Have we stopped treating God like, well, God?” is “of course” we can’t help ourselves but to place human attributes to God and our “relationship” with Him because we are so limited and really have nothing else to reference it to, and that’s where grace comes in…

  16. A lot to ponder here. In your writings and everyone’s comments. Going away to think now….

  17. God is our friend, but much more. So much more as to be indescribable. Jesus, the only begotten Son, is our elder brother, as we are adopted into God’s family.

    (It is inevitable that your students will ask the age question. I always turned it into an arithmetic lesson. Each kid got a guess, all guesses recorded on the board. Then the kiddos had to calculate the “average” or mean, and that number became my age to them for the rest of the year. Case closed.)

  18. INTERESTING ARTICLE, at first I was taken back by the title.

  19. In the book “Imaginary Jesus” by Matt Mikalatos we see what happens when Jesus becomes our buddy our friend but loses who he really is… Really funny, easy read, and hits you between the eyes when you are not looking.

  20. I totally get what you’re saying and I agree that our definition of “friends” has been terribly cheapened.

    That said, I don’t feel that the picture you paint is complete. The reason is because we always try to simplify our “relationship” with God into something that’s familiar or something we can relate to. God knows this.

    The thing is that God is multi-dimensional. He’s referred to as a Father and He’s referred to as a friend (John 15:15). There is a picture of Him as a lover, depending on how you interpret the Song of Solomon. There is a picture of Him as a comforter in the Holy Spirit. He’s also referred to as a servant.

    He’s both the Lion AND the Lamb.

    So it’s not as simply as JUST referring to Him as a friend. But He is. It’s not enough to JUST refer to Him as God the Father, the LORD of Host and might to save. But He is that as well.

    I believe we go through different seasons where He reveals His character in the way we most need to understand it. That’s why you hear people praying to “Daddy God” or “Papa”. They have a revelation of Him as an intimate father and so that’s how they relate in this season.

    Then you read something like Isaiah 6 and He can give you a revelation of His glory and transcendence and the only response is what Isaiah said, “Woe to me! I am ruined!

    I believe that we will spend all eternity worshipping Him in all His different dimensions. It’s cool how in Revelation that day and night the 4 living creatures around the throne keep saying “Holy, holy, holy”. Either that gets boring really fast, or they keep on getting a pretty powerful revelation of who He is over and over.

  21. There’s something about the word friend that implies an equal footing. If one or the other is superior in some way we tend to call the relationship something different. If we call God our friend we may be taking something from His deity. I have noticed in Spanish here in Paraguay they have several words they use to reference friendship. Each marks a level. Compañero-school or work friend. Socio-An associate. Amigo-friend closer. From that point there are several slang-like local terms that mean something a great deal closer. We tend in English to use friend for all manner of association.

  22. My real friends are those who know me intimately, love me for who I am, and are with me as I go through life. In that sense, Jesus is my most wonderful friend. Yes – there’s so much more to Him, but I believe the whole story is about something relational – so using the word “friend” (though not in the meaningless facebook kind of way) sits well with me. Yes, this is scandalous, when you think about the majesty and awe of who God really is… but the Gospel IS a scandal. That’s what I love about it!!

  23. I can’t possibly disagree that we do not honor God enough. But the problem is not that we should not have a relationship with God. If we are the Bride of Christ, then we must have an intimate relationship with God, which is what people like St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila wrote about. The problem is that aside from the fact that we do not honor God, we also do not love God enough–we do not follow the first commandment.

    Far from following what Jesus said was the greatest commandment, which is to love God the most with every part of our being, even we Christians live our lives in abysmal idolatry. We run after a million things: money, fun, sex, hobbies, impressing our friends, pleasing our kids, you name it, and God is maybe near the bottom of our list of priorities, right before cleaning out the rain gutters and writing a letter to Aunt Madge. So, I would say that our problem is not one of being too familiar with God, in fact most of us don’t even know God, because even many of my Christian friends don’t trust God to take care of them, they don’t think that he can intervene in their lives, and even if they do fear God, it’s not respect–they actually think that God is wicked (deep down in their hearts, where even they don’t notice it) as evidenced by their statements about how they are afraid to submit their lives completely to the Lord because they don’t know what He will do to them!!

    I can testify that being a “friend of God” is pretty much the most awesome and satisfying relationship that we humans can enjoy. It’s better than having a new baby, or being infatuated, or getting a promotion. So, I guess I don’t really like you saying that having a relationship with God is part of the problem. Jesus came to earth so that we could have a relationship with our awesome, beautiful, holy, holy, holy maker. The problem is with us: we don’t honor, know, or trust God. That is why we don’t have the *right* relationships with God. Sadly, many Christians have the same blasphemous attitudes toward God that many atheists have. :o( Those wrong ideas will, indeed keep us from enjoying God the way we should, and from having the “abundant life” that Jesus talked about.

  24. Great post – linking it.

  25. “There is only 1 place in the Bible that says anything about being God’s friend”.

    Response: “What about the other places where Jesus explicitly calls us His friends? (John 15:15, etc..)”

    “Yea.. and those isolated parts, too”. (If I actually knew something about the scriptures I would have known that. If I were a real go-getter I could have used google.)

    What a mockery of Christianity this guy is. This “pastor” sounds like a loser who can’t get a real job so he is clown/pastor to admittedly get a pay check. The premise of this blog are truths that can’t be told to his “flock” at his house church so he secretly speaks his mind here? The flippant comments and cavalier attitude about things which are holy are truly a mockery. This guy Matt, (if that’s his real name) needs to grow up, take the Lord seriously, gain MUCH more Biblical understanding, and come back reinvented as a faithful congregant at a real church. How could he expect not to get laughed out of any circle of Christians who take the things of the Lord seriously. What a clown.

  26. I understand what you are saying, but, I see it a little differently. I see Jesus as the “ultimate friend”. He laid down His life for me. I think the challenge is in our understanding of friend. Like you said, we use the word frivolously these days.

    Because of our our sinfulness and His Holiness, we are totally separated from God. But He desired a “relationship” with us, so He gave us Jesus. In a way, He did come down to our level so we could know Him better, and ultimately have that relationship with Him through CHrist. Max Lucado wrote a book called God Came Near..In this book Lucado says not to keep Jesus otherworldly and distant. Rather, let Jesus be as human as He intended to be, and let him into the mire and muck our our world. Jesus is the Son of God, but also the Son of Man. “Son of” meant to have identity with. Jesus is fully God, but also was fully Man while here on earth. This was so He could have relationship with us. Relationship means we are not separated anymore. Jesus is my Saviour, and my God, and my best friend, far beyond any friendship imaginable. Thank you for your thoughts on this…Liss

  27. Is Jesus your Friend or your King?

    One of the most striking differences I found between evangelicalism and orthodox (confessional) Lutheranism is the primary way in which those two Christian “Churches” view Christ.

    In evangelicalism, at least for me, the emphasis was on Christ as my friend. “Jesus is always there for you. Jesus is your friend in need. Jesus is your best friend. When you are feeling down, come to Jesus and let him wrap his arms around you and tell you that everything will be ok. What a Friend we have in Jesus!”

    Now, don’t get me wrong. Lutherans also believe that Jesus is our friend. There is nothing wrong with the evangelical concept that Jesus is our friend. What Lutherans would have you contemplate, however, are the problems that can arise when Christians make their primary concept of Christ be: “Jesus, my buddy”.

    How does it make you feel when you expect your friend to always be there for you, to have your back, but at times, when life gets tough, he doesn’t seem to really be there? How do you feel when you call on your friend for help, but he doesn’t seem to be listening? How does it make you feel when your friend doesn’t meet your expectations?

    Answer: You get frustrated, down/depressed, impatient, demanding, and even outright angry, AND you will frequently vent your frustrations onto your friend either verbally or in your actions, to let him know how displeased you are with his failure to live up to your expectations.

    Now, go back to the questions in the paragraph above, and replace the word “friend” with the term “Almighty, sovereign Lord” or the word “King”, and let’s see how that changes your response:

    You may become frustrated, depressed, impatient, demanding and angry with your sovereign, absolutist King, but your reaction and behavior to your King will be MUCH different than in the case with your friend. What will be the big difference?

    You will obey your King regardless of your internal feelings! You have been given orders; you have been given work to do by your King, and he expects, he demands, that you do it regardless of how you feel about it!

    The Kingship of Jesus Christ, Lord God of Heaven and Earth, first and foremost demands your obedience to his sovereign will. Your obedience to the King is the focus in Lutheranism, not your internal feelings. The concept that Jesus is your “buddy” is not emphasized. Focusing your Christian life on obedience to God’s Word, rather than your feelings and the current status of your friendship with your buddy, is one of the most liberating and comforting aspects of orthodox Lutheran Christianity, at least for me.

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals
    an orthodox Lutheran blog

  28. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

    Greater love has no one then this than he who lays down his life for his friends.

    Jesus laid down his life for us, his friends. Yes he wants followers, but those followers are his friends if they do what he commands. If you are a friend with somebody, you are in relationship with them. Thus we have relationship with God.

    • John 15:13-15

    • I couldn’t have said it any better myself. I personally believe that Jesus does want us to be His friends and for Him to be ours. I don’t really agree that friends are people that have things in common and that we have absolutely nothing at all in common with Jesus. A relationship such as a friendship is about helping each other and being a shoulder for each other to lean on. Jesus wants us to be like that for him. He wants us to talk to him. He does want a relationship from us. Not only for us to be his followers but his friends too. Just because Abraham was the only person in the bible that he literally called “a friend of God” doesn’t mean he doesn’t cherish friendship and holds us as friends. Friendship is shown and talked about quite a bit in the bible. That says a lot.

  29. Jesus is everything that I need and want him to be. He’s not only my savior and redeemer but also my father and best friend. As I’m proud to call him that. My best friend.

  30. A lot of you are pretty much saying that Jesus can’t be both a friend and a King and I don’t think that’s true. Me viewing Jesus as a friend doesn’t mean I view him the same way as I view the “friends” I have on earth. Because I know that he’s much more than that. Maybe I’m just strange and I don’t put him in a box or put friendship in a box. He is the perfect friend to me that is.

  31. In John 15:14, Jesus said we are His friends if we do whatever He commands us. It’s truly more of followership than of friendship.