Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Is Jesus Your BFF?

I often pass by a certain church on my way to work that, like many churches, has a sign out front where they post messages for the passing traffic to read. I rarely find the messages on the sign to be captivating but usually they are harmless enough. There is, however, one recent message I keep coming back to that bothered me. The sign read, “Is Jesus your BFF?” I am sure that the message was well intentioned but I think it unfortunately reinforces a perspective of our relationship to Christ that is irreverent.

The Bible declares that Jesus Christ, the divine Logos “became flesh and dwelt among us”. The implications of this are profound. The Christian God is not the indifferent God of the philosophers. Our theology is incomplete if we only understand God to be holy and transcendent without also understanding his grace and love whereby He offers Himself to us. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, we cannot therefore think about God without understanding Him as a redeeming God who makes it possible for sinful humans to come to Him. Those who believe have the promise of Christ that “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21 ESV) It is impossible to conceive of a more intimate connection.

The tendency in our day, however, is to neglect the fundamental reason why such promises are so remarkable. God cannot come to meet sinners apart from His holiness and yet He is both just and the justifier. Rather than a holy God, we often hear instead of a Jesus who is like a forlorn neighbor who is waiting with nervous anticipation for us to come over to visit Him so we can hang out and have fun. Terms like “BFF” are more likely to bring to mind the relationships between teenage girls than they are to evoke thoughts of a holy God condescending in grace to rescue foul sinners. It seems more likely that to most that drive by the message is that Jesus is an altogether approachable and comfortable companion who makes no demands.

It is true that Jesus was called “a friend of sinners” (Lk 7:34), Abraham was called a friend of God (Jas. 2:23), and Jesus obviously enjoyed a close friendship with Lazarus and many others. I am not arguing that all discussions of the friendship of Christ are wrong. I am simply trying to point out that any such concept must be balanced appropriately or it will be misleading. I am reminded of an observation made by preacher John Sartelle about the apostle John’s meeting with Jesus in Revelation 1. In verses 9-16 John describes a vision where he encountered the Lord. After describing what he saw John explains:

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”  (Revelation 1:17-18 ESV)

John’s first reaction to seeing Jesus in His glory was to fall down as though he were dead! Keep in mind that this is not the reaction of an unrepentant sinner. John was not only an apostle entrusted the authorship of God’s Word, but John was also one of the closest friends of Jesus. They were constantly together during Christ’s earthly ministry. The Bible says that John was the disciple “whom Jesus loved” and the one who leaned upon the chest of Christ as they shared the last supper before the crucifixion. If anyone would qualify as a best friend of Jesus, John would be a candidate. According to John, however, they did not address one another as old fishing buddies. Instead, John is so overcome by his vision of Jesus that he falls flat on his face like one who had died.

Jesus reassures John that he need not be afraid and only then does he find comfort. There is an important lesson in this about His glory. Jesus is a friend but He is not an equal. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV) He should never become familiar to us in the sense that we lose a sense of His majesty. We are forever the redeemed, forever the recipient of undeserved favor, and forever in a state of worship. We are granted to come boldly before the throne of grace but we never stand firm on our own. We look to Him for all our comfort and assurance.

Jesus is a friend to us sinners because of the unfathomable grace of God. He is not my BFF; He is my Lord and Savior. I may come freely to Him and need not fear because of His grace; nevertheless, I come in tears of brokenness over my sin and tears of joy over His Love.

1 comment:

  1. When I see a sign like that I keep on driving. It's just another church trying to conform to the world instead of Christ.