What a Friend
Do you know that old hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus?” It’s never been one of my favorites. Of course, Jesus is our friend. In humility the Lord of heaven and earth came to earth and laid down his life for us, and John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” But this idea that Jesus is our friend, our best friend, can seem so abstract. I can’t see him. I can’t touch him. I can’t call him up on the phone and hear his voice. We can’t go get lunch together. I can’t physically cry on his shoulder when I have a bad day. What kind of friendship is this with an invisible being?
It’s strange, but something that we need to wrestle with. Jesus is not content to be even your second best friend, let alone at the end of the line up or on a different bench altogether. And until we see this relationship in its proper place, all our earthly friendships (or lack thereof) will only ever be disappointing.
Our God knows a little something about perfect friendships. In Genesis 1 we learn that for all eternity, he has been living within perfect community as our triune God. The Father, Son and Spirit, have always been living (and always will live) in perfect community in perfect love, and creation is an expression of that love. And what a massive expression that is! Man was made in God’s communal, loving likeness (Gen 1:26). Relationships are so important to us because this is how we were designed! And this is why they have the power to bring us such joy. But because of the fall (Gen 3), they also have the power to bring us such devastation. Unlike in God’s perfect triune community, our friendships here on earth are with fellow selfish sinners. We all deeply desire close friendships, but the perfect unity in their design has been corrupted.
This is why we need to be grounded in the ONE friendship that isn’t distorted and will never disappoint.
Proverbs 19:22 - Which human friend can love with this hesed, covenant keeping, loyal, always for us, never against us love better than the ONE who has never broken a promise?
Proverbs 20:5 - Which human friend knows our hearts better than the ONE who created them?
Proverbs 17:9 - Which human friend has covered our offense better than the ONE who did so with his own blood so that those who call upon his name can now stand in the presence of a holy God?
It may be hard at times to understand this friendship because as physical beings we are so caught up in what we can see and touch and feel, but invisible does not mean unreal. Jesus is the most real friend.
No one is your friend like Christ because no one loves you like Christ, no one sacrificed for you like Christ, and no one can work for your good like Christ. And when we get this right, our earthly friendships are radically different. We don’t look to them to fulfill a need to be known because our best friend is the one who knows already knows our hearts better than we do (Psalm 139:13). We don’t look to them for comfort because our best friend is the one who comforts perfectly (Psalm 23:4). We don’t look to them for our security because our best friend will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We don’t look to them for our ultimate joy because our best friend IS ultimate joy (John 15:11).
Instead, in this light, our human friendships are seen for what they truly are, a gift from the giver of every good and perfect gift. A gift that he can give, take away, tear down, build up, change, mold, and reshape as he pleases, because he is such a good friend he wants only our highest joy: that HE would continue to be our best.
“Whatsoever there is or can be desirable in a friend, is in Christ, and that to the highest degree that can be desired.” - Jonathan Edwards
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