A favorite song of many evangelical Christians repeats the refrain:
“I am a friend of God, he calls me, ‘Friend.'”
But what does it mean to be friend of God, or more specifically, of Jesus Christ? The answer to the question leads me to hum that song line rather than proclaim it for fear of presumption.
To be Jesus’ friend is something that he decides based upon the state of my soul:
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
But on what standard does Jesus call people friends? Just sentences earlier he said:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
The particular sort of friendship Jesus wants to strike up with us is quite irregular. Very few friendships work this way. Our typical idea of friendship is basically Aristotelian: those who hold things in common. Friends spend time together, help each other, and think about things similarly. I think that Jesus’ understanding of friendship is similar. But in his case, to be his friend is none other than to be his disciple. In other words, in friendship Jesus doesn’t fit himself into your life paradigm as one who shares in your life, but demands that you alter your life to match his paradigm. Why? In John’s gospel, he is presented as the logos or logical structure behind the world. To be friends with Jesus is, in the final analysis, to be realigned with God and with nature. So, Jesus cannot alter the structure of the universe to you when you’re the one who is sinful. But he can offer friendship with us by offering to transform us. This is a difficult pill to swallow, but alas, it is the medicine Jesus offers.