What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear! / What a privilege to carry / Everything to God in prayer!

Are you singing along in your head?

The old hymn talks about the friendship of Jesus in the solace he provides, the comfort in trials, and the courage in temptations. But this year I’ve been thinking more about what the friendship of Jesus might involve by reflecting on what my exclusively human friends are like.

There are a whole pile of images of God in the bible that help us understand what God is like. Because, let’s be honest, He’s pretty hard to get our heads around. So these images function as metaphors to help us understand the transcendent and the immanent aspects of God’s character.

He’s like a warrior (Isaiah 42:13), a nursing mother (Isaiah 49:15), a rejected father (Luke 15:11-32), a shepherd (Psalm 23), a mother hen (Matt hew 23:37), and on and on. None of these images capture all of God, and you have to old them in tension to see the whole of God in balance. Like, the warrior and the mother hen, surely those are opposites? Well no. Especially if you’ve heard about the time a flock of chickens pecked a fox to death.

All language about God is necessarily metaphorical, which means you’re allowed to use your <gasp> imagination. There is so much food for thought in these images – what does each reveal of God? Why do I find some hard to relate to and others I instinctively love? There’s some more blog posts in there for sure!

But Jesus the friend? I’ve been loving this one recently.

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

John 15:15

He calls us his friends. He identifies Himself as our friends. Not the other way around. I can just imagine it, “Maja? Yeah, she’s one of my mates”. He picks me as a BFF? Yass!

So with this image of Jesus as my friend, what do I find?

  • He loves to hang out with me. When he thinks of how he’d like to spend his time, he chooses me.
  • He’s interested in the things I’m interested in. He’ll listen to me blather on about my chickens (this is a legit hobby, thank you), just as much as he’s keen to hear my husband’s thought on road cycling (he’s more interested than I am haha).
  • We can hang out in companionable silence. Us Protestants love words: we love the Word, we love talking, we love preaching, we love declaration and confession. And that’s all good, but let’s not forget about sacrament, embodiment, and tacit understanding. I can spend time with God without having to say anything, or without Him having to say anything to me.
  • He laughs at my jokes! Honestly, this one has been an eye opener. Partly because I don’t consider myself to be a funny person, and so if someone’s laughing at a joke I made, I am feeling the love. But more than that, he chooses to joke with me.
Laughing Christ by Fred Berger

I’ve found this new dynamic to my prayer life, where I’ll hear God speak to me, not with something profound and weighty, but with a joke. Often with a playful tease – probably to get me to be less profound and weighty, and ah, pretentious.

I’ll say it again, God’s been telling me jokes recently, and I love it. Because, well, for a start he’s funny, and he knows exactly the things I find funny, but more than that, it shows me that not everything has to be so serious. I spent so long with God in heaviness, unmet requests, grief, and disappointment. And before that, I was just so darn earnest, so serious. I don’t think I would have been able to hear him say “lighten up!”, it didn’t quite fit my theology.

But this Jesus my friend, this laughing Christ, He is fun to be around. And I think, I hope, he’s making me more fun to be around too.

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2 thoughts on “What a friend we have in Jesus

  1. Melissa says:

    To be honest, this is a concept I’m finding difficult at the moment. I didn’t use to have difficulty seeing Jesus as a friend, but now I feel like who am I, to talk to him?

    Like

    • Maja Whitaker says:

      I think there are seasons in our life where we connect more with the transcendence of God than the immanence of God. While both are held in tension in who God is, the seasonality of our connection is all good. But it’s always worth checking in with yourself to see if there’s something underneath that distance – I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the need to “interrogate” our thoughts etc. I love the fact that despite this great unbridgeable gap between God and I, He took the first step towards me, not vice verse. He calls us friend first x

      Like

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