Can I just admit, there is a phrase in christian-ese that used to make me roll my eyes. No really, with a gruff, I’d chalk it up to good-old-fashioned-cheese and move on. But lately, it has haunted me. As I’ve journeyed through some friendship things over the past few months this one phrase chants in the background of my mind and holds me hostage.
“I have a friend in Jesus”
Oh, I’m fully aware of the scriptural support of that phrase. And yes, I’ve heard the hymn. But I’ve blown past the meaning for far too long. You see, I’ve defined friendship as something to obtain, a status I have to earn, either by deed or by character. With friends I mean something, without them I’m flawed. Friendship is a noun in my dictionary, its a thing.
But it never quite works that way with Jesus. And I am befuddled.
I mean, for real. Jesus doesn’t actually live in the flesh next door. And we don’t both order latte’s to sit and have coffee. So how do I have a friendship with someone I can’t physically touch or at least actually text on my phone? I don’t mean to be trivial, I am truly serious. I get the servant thing, I can follow the daughter/son connection – but friendship…?
Please hear my heart. I love Jesus with every fiber of my being. I long for His presence and can tell in my reactions when I haven’t spent enough time in prayer. With my whole heart I seek His face, His voice, His presence. And nothing terrifies me more than displeasing His best will for my life.
But I couldn’t reconcile this phrase (nor get it out of my head).
Proverbs 18:24 “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
John 15:14-15 You are my friends if you do what I command. 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.
The more I stared at these verses… the more I wondered if we were talking about the same thing.
And guess what- we weren’t.
The first time “friends” is used in Proverbs 18:24 it is the Hebrew word “Reim”. A noun. Friends are a thing, and according to this verse things are unreliable. The second time “friend” is used it is the Hebrew word “Oheb”- a verb that means “to love”.
Chew on that for one moment… this author is saying that your friends, your unreliable Facebook numbers, your list of contacts… they are fleeting, unpredictable and thus unreliable. But there is a Love out there that clings to you stronger than your very own blood line. Woah.
Ok, now look at John 15:14-15 where the word “friend” is used twice. Both times it is translated from the Greek word “Philoi”. Want to know what that means?
First- it’s an adjective. And just in case you ran from Language Arts class like it was on fire-Adjectives describe nouns. And this adjective means — dearly loved, trusted confidant, beloved.
When the Holy Spirit inspired these words to be written in Hebrew and again centuries later in Greek, He wasn’t talking about friends like I was talking about friends. I meant the noun, the collection of common interests, the reciprocating give and take of commodities. No. When Jesus calls you a friend, He meant the adjective, the verb. He is describing you as a beloved, a trusted confidant, one to love.
His concept of friend goes far beyond my surfacey idea. It has nothing to do with what we do, what we give, or how we act. It has to do with Him and His love FOR us, His affection TOWARDS us. He knew us before we were born. He thought of us and prayed for us at Calvary. He sees us, He hears us. He knows the hairs on our heads. His personal affection towards us has nothing to do with what we do, and everything to do with whose we are.
He is a friend who holds tighter to you than a brother. His heartbeat is trust worthy when you are sad, when you are angry, when you are lonely. He may not be physical, but He is tangible.
“No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you.” John 15:15b-16a MSG
This post is linked with some amazing writers — strike that– encouragers over at Kelly Balarie’s RaRaLinkUp. You should come mingle with us- you won’t leave discouraged.