Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God in Search of Friends

Yesterday, I blogged about the aims of ministry. My friend’s good insight on building a fan base or a following spurred me to think about the reasons we minister and the endgame we’re pursuing with people. I thought the distinction between fans and followers was a good one, but I wanted to add a third—friends. Ministry ought to be about making deep, lasting friendships that are rooted in Christ Jesus.

This morning I was laying in my bed after feeding Ezekiel his bottle, pondering this idea from God’s perspective. One way to look at the Bible is to see it as the story of God in search of friends. His first friends (Adam & Eve) betrayed him, and almost nobody after them wanted anything to do with God. There were a few rare occasions (Enoch being the most faithful), but for the most part, God was friendless.

God’s relationship with Israel is most often couched in the verbiage of a marriage. (Check out the book of Hosea for the most vivid illustration of this.) God is the groom and Israel is the bride. They have a marriage ceremony on Mt. Sinai, complete with vows and “I dos”. Of course the marriage goes south quickly, and only seems to get worse as the story moves from Exodus to Malachi.

But then Jesus comes along and calls twelve disciples to his side. (Get it? 12 disciples = 12 tribes of Israel.) He remakes Israel around himself, and in three years accomplishes what his father had been trying to do for 1500—he finds friends. Jesus brought these twelve guys on a journey from curious onlookers (fans) to disciples (followers) to friends. And even though they were all about to abandon him or deny him or betray him, at the Last Supper he tenderly names them “friends”.

In order to find friends, God had to become like us. He had to take on flesh and blood and experience life (and death) from our perspective. The only way for him to find friends on earth was to live on earth. Jesus accomplished the relational purpose of God by making friends with Peter, James, John and all the rest.

The funny thing about God’s pursuit of friends is that he isn’t lonely! He is Three-In-One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God exists in eternal community within himself. God’s search for friends isn’t driven by his need for us, but rather by our need for him. He knows we need him, and not just as a distant deity but as a close, personal friend. And he wants to be your friend. Really, he does. The Creator became a creature, not because he was lonely, but because the world he created was, so to speak, dying of loneliness; and his presence, his closeness, was the only thing that could save it.

Jesus wants you to be more than a follower, he wants you to be his friend. He wants you to know him, and he wants you to open up to him. There is an admirable nobility to just being a good servant of God, but if all God wanted was servants he wouldn’t have created us with the capacity to love and betray. God wants more than servants. He wants communities of people that love him and love each other. God is in search of friends. Has he found one in you?


Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that no one has left a comment on this post! The reflections you present here together with those from the day before have profoundly blessed me.

For a long time I've been emphasizing in my preaching and teaching the importance of following Jesus – which is, of course, a good thing to emphasize. But looking back, I see I've often missed the relational aspect. God doesn't only want followers, He wants FRIENDS! You adeptly revealed that theme all through Scripture.

It's not that this is something brand new to me; I've been singing "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" for decades. But the way you put this truth hit me afresh back when I first read it, and still today as I reflect on it, and just encouraged a friend to read it, too. I needed (and need) to (re)emphasize the relational aspect to discipleship!

For sure, follow Jesus. But be His friend, too. And allow Him to befriend you. ...That's what's been popping up in my conversations and preaching in recent months.

Thank you for reminding me!

andy said...

Stan, thanks for the encouragement! I'm not sure why some things get traction (like what I post about the Rapture) and others don't. I read this again and was also blessed by it. (I know, how incredibly narcissistic of me!) But you've inspired me to put together a page of some of my most formational posts, if for no other reason than that I can go back to them and be reminded of what God has taught me and the course he has set for my life.