Friends of Jesus

It’s having confidence in him, but also having confidence in his intelligence and strategy for bringing about a complete global revolution, where earth will one day reflect heaven…. One of the few things that has stood firm through the last few years of deconstruction and reconstruction of my understanding of life with God, his people and his creation has been the core truth of having a friendship with Jesus.

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Yesterday, I talked a bit about what faith in Jesus is about. It’s having confidence in Jesus. But having confidence in him as a person also means having confidence in his intelligence and strategy for bringing about a complete global revolution, one that will ultimately transform the earth so it will truly emulate heaven.

(By the way, I called Jesus’ agenda a political one, because at its core it addresses how we, as humans, govern our lives, our relationships, our societies, our economics, our ecology, and our world. In other words, being the image of God, while emanating from a spiritual core, is primarily a political reality more than a “religious” one.)

A corollary to discussing faith in Jesus, especially in evangelical circles, is talking about having a “personal relationship” with Jesus. As a young Christian, twenty-plus years ago, I remember hearing and using this phrase to describe Christian living. “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a personal relationship with God/Jesus.”

One of the few things that has stood firm through the last few years of personal deconstruction and reconstruction of my understanding of life with God, people and his creation has been the core truth of having a friendship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus calls his apprentices “friends.” (However, I’ve ditched the phrase “personal relationship” with Jesus. It began to sound too much like “life-partners” or something weird.)

“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.”

John 15:15-16

Confidence in Jesus results in a friendship with Jesus. But what does Jesus mean by the word “friend?” In our culture, friendship has many levels of meaning, spanning a spectrum of mutual affinity with another person to deep loyalty. The more I think about friendship with Jesus, I’m convinced it goes to a further level. Look at what he says:

“You are my friends if you do what I command.”

John 15:14

In other words, friendship with Jesus soars beyond liking Jesus and even beyond loyalty to Jesus. It’s having so much certainty in him and his plan, that you make it your life-goal to become like him. It’s emulating Jesus from the inside-out so that just as the earth will one day reflect and emulate the reality of heaven, our friendship with Jesus will do the same at the personal level.

One of the instant protests that arises from this line of thought is, “But I’m not perfect.” It’s funny how our Christology always boils down to this one facet of Jesus’ life — he was perfect. I could be wrong, but I can’t recall a moment in the Gospels where Jesus exhorts his students to be perfect. He does call them to be mature, a word often translated as perfect. But the dynamic Hebrew concept of “perfect,” “complete,” or “mature” doesn’t contain the same meaning as the Greek idea of static perfection, which we often associate with Jesus.

Bottom-line, a friendship with Jesus is ultimately expressed by learning from him how to be like him, not perfectly, but progressively. And like any “training program,” there will be ups and downs, successes and failures. But over time, I should be able to see a marked difference in the kind of person I am today as opposed to who I was one year, five years, ten years or twenty years ago.

And, ultimately, if granted a long life in this realm, I should reach the threshold of life in the renewed creation having become as much like Jesus as the limitations that this transient life on earth allows. Or to use the Hebrew concept, I will have become as “complete” or “mature” as this life allows. (Which, I suspect, is a lot more than our current imaginations allow us to envision.) And like I mentioned yesterday, this is the core to Jesus’ worldwide strategy for making this earth right.

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