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I’ve been put off at times by what seemed to be chummy language about God or even the idea of Jesus as our buddy. In sharp contrast, Daniel is awestricken when he describes God’s presence: “A fiery stream issued / And came forth from before him / Thousand thousands ministered to him / Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him / And the court was seated / And the books were opened” (Dan 7: 10). And John, Jesus’ beloved disciple says, “when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead” (Rev 1: 17a ~NKJV and below), later adding, “from whose his face heaven and earth fled away” (Rev 20: 11a). Still, the same Lord John refers to in this way says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11: 28).
Who are we approaching when we pray–the Almighty, “fearful in wonders” or one who is our friend? The passages raising this issue take us back to the Bible, source for all questions about God. It’s always the place to start.
First, God is the Creator. We serve one God, whom we find in three Persons in the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth . . .. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen 1: 1a, 2b). The Gospel of John begins with a similar passage: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . .. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made. . .. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1: 1, 14). These text teach us about the Trinity but also keep the greatness of God before us.
Amazingly, it is our great Creator who initiated the possibility of friendship with God–in both the OT and NT. The story of Abraham almost defines friendship with God, and at least three times in the Bible, he is called God’s friend (2 Chron 20: 7; Isa 41: 8; Jam 2: 23). God spoke with Moses, “as a man speaks to his friend,” we read in Ex 33: 11. But what about us? These were biblical heroes!
Jesus invites his disciples and followers to see themselves as his friends. At his last meal with his disciples, Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you” (John 15: 13-15). What’s more, Jesus’ invitation to come to him is friendly. He seems to have his arms wide open when he says to weary workers everywhere, “Come to me . . . and I will give you rest.”
It’s right for followers of Jesus Christ to think of him as Friend–“friend” is his name for us! Slipping into a chummy view of Jesus can be fixed by recalling who this is–Redeemer, Judge, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God the Son.