Sunday, 26 October 2014

God is friendship

I've recently been reading a book by a friend, Dr Brian Edgar entitled God is Friendship. I want to start a series of reflections on this idea.

In John 15, Jesus says:

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. (NRSV)

Jesus does not call his disciples servants (or slaves, doulous) any longer, instead he makes everything that God is telling Jesus known to them. There are no secrets - even if they didn't understand all of it at the time. Remember, as a farewell discourse, he is preparing them for life without him face to face.

The idea of being friends with Jesus can be hard to swallow. For some, it is "Jesus my girlfriend" as captured by too many over sentimental choruses, yet the disciples were Jesus friends because of his revelation, and the believer by extension as well (since we have the same revelation only written down).

Some argue that friendship is too egalitarian and that it brings Jesus too far down to our level. I'd have thought that was the whole point of the incarnation. But that aside, Jesus chose the disciples and not vice versa (all arguments about predestination aside, it is a historical fact here of his choosing them).

So at the very least, let's understand our standing of Jesus not merely as one of obligation or obedience (though the latter is true, the former probably not the best way of putting it) but of brotherly love (philia). This is, as Edgar says, a powerful corrective to the tendency of some of us to fall into a sense of duty, when there is so much more to express and experience as friends of Jesus.

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