It’s popular today to talk about Jesus as “a friend.” Maybe too popular.
It’s not entirely an unbiblical idea. And everyone loves and respects the old hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
But the Bible, including Jesus’ own words, suggest He’s not everyone’s friend. In fact, His friendship is conditional.
Abraham was called a friend of God. He was counted as a friend of God “forever” (2 Chronicles 20:7) because of his faith and obedience, and that was counted as righteousness. (James 2:23) God so appreciated those qualities of Abraham that He created a nation among his descendants – Isaac and Jacob, later called Israel. (Isaiah 41:8)
That reminds me of an amazing prophecy about Jesus the Messiah in Zechariah 13:6, in which people will one day ask the Messiah when He returns to Israel, “What are these wounds in thine hands?” He will answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”
Indeed, Jesus referred to some around Him during the first century in Israel as His friends, as in John 11:11, when He was about to resurrect one of them from the dead: “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.”
He also said famously in John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
But, for Jesus, friendship was earned.
For His apostles, that friendship came after three years of walking and studying with Him, after many others walked away. After what we call “the last supper,” Jesus said this to them in John 15:15: “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”
Again, in John 15:14, we see that obedience was a prerequisite for friendship with Jesus: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
And in James 4:4, we’re instructed that one must make a choice – friendship with the world or friendship with God: “(K)now ye not,” He said, “that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Too often, I think, we take the friendship of Jesus for granted. Again, what are the requirements?
- faith and obedience so strong it can be imputed as righteousness
- embracing Jesus as the Son of God, the Redeemer of mankind
- turning over one’s life to Him
- rejection of the ways of the world
- repentance whenever we stumble into sin
- following His commandments
Jesus also made clear there is a price to pay for seeking this kind of relationship with Him. Being His friend does not mean we will not encounter opposition. In fact, it assures we will. Many of His closest friends were tortured and died horrifying deaths as a result of their commitment to Him.
And many still are in our world today.
I just finished a great new book called “The Insanity of God.” I was more than a little put off by the title, at first. But it has been recommended to me by someone I trusted. It deals in vivid, remarkable detail with persecuted believers around the world, yet it is remarkably uplifting and insightful.
In the book, we get to meet many suffering friends of Jesus – in Somalia, in Russia, in China, in other lands unnamed because of the danger simply naming them might add to these heroes of the faith.
Why do people risk their lives to follow Jesus? Why have they done so for the last 2,000 years?
Because He is our King, our Savior, our Lord, our Almighty God and because the death we may face in serving Him is not really death at all. It’s temporary. It’s “sleep.” And, one day He will resurrect us from that sleep as the Father resurrected Him. And we will rule and reign with Him over the earth, living forever in His sight and by His side in paradise.
That’s what true friends of Jesus inherit.
Watch this interview of Joseph Farah discussing ‘The Restitution of All Things”: