Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Being a Friend

My good friend from seminary will be coming to visit this weekend! I am so excited that Joy will be here in just two days. We decided to read a book together and discuss it when she arrives. The book we chose was recommended by one of my Facebook friends: Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World by Lynne M. Baab.*

I have, in all honesty, had to cram this book in the last couple of weeks because I've been so busy. But I am so glad I took the time to read it. I'm almost finished and will certainly be done by the time Joy arrives.

In her book, Baab discusses what it means to be a friend in today's world, when friends are far-flung across states and even continents, and so many different forms of communication are available to us. She shares her wisdom out of a lifetime of experience being a friend across the miles. Baab discusses lots of elements of being a friend, like acceptance, forgiveness, taking initiative, giving, thanking, and praying. She also devotes one chapter to the image of Jesus as our friend.

When I was a youth in East Ohio, one of our CCYM presidents said during a Thursday night devotion, "Knowing that Jesus is my friend is what gets me out of bed in the morning." That's a powerful statement, and I'm not sure I can say the same thing for myself. I consider my relationship with God important, and I look forward to my morning devotions, but it is hard to consider Jesus my friend. All of Baab's excellent suggestions for keeping up earthly friendships don't quite translate to a relationship with the Divine.

Baab does a good job of describing the Godhead as relational in nature, and states that the relationships among the members of the Trinity serve as an example for human relationships. She then cites John 15:12-15 (NRSV):
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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.
This verse nicely illustrates Jesus' relationship with us. Christ is not over us, ordering us around, but is sharing his life with us and taking part in our lives.  I love this theology, and I understand her point that God's example teaches us how to be better friends.

But still, I have to ask: how are we to be Jesus' friend? There is no audible voice of God with whom to have a conversation. There is no tangible body of Christ to hug; the closest we come to that is during communion, when we experience Christ's presence among us in ritual. We can't friend Jesus on Facebook (well, OK, we can, but that's not really Jesus behind that Facebook account; it's a regular person).

So what does it mean to be a friend of Jesus? Well, I think Baab's elements of friendship can serve as a guide: acceptance, forgiveness, taking initiative, giving, and thanking. We can accept God's grace and thank God for the blessings in our lives when we pray. When we give to others and do the difficult work of accepting and forgiving them, we are forgiving Jesus too (Matt. 25:40). By making time to read the Bible, we are taking taking the initiative to get to know Jesus.

I've just come up with the ways in which we can befriend Jesus. Even so, I don't really think of my relationship with Jesus as a friendship. It just... is what it is. I don't really try to describe it to others.

How do you think about your relationship with Jesus? How do you maintain it?

* I was not given this book and I was not paid to write about it in this blog. This blog post contains my true opinions about the book.

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