“I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…fruit that will last.” John 15:15-16
According to psychologists and the United Kingdom’s newest minister, the greatest threat to modern men is our loneliness. Statistically speaking, middle-aged, middle-to-upper income, married men are the loneliest people on the planet. In Freed to Lead, the founders of F3 capture the essence of this male loneliness by categorizing most male friendships as:
- Legacy Friends
- Work Buddies
Legacy friends are the men you gather with annually to drink and retell “glory day” stories. Work Buddies are relational contacts around a shared task but once the job is done so is the friendship. Finally, Man Dates are obligatory friendships with other men because your wife (or children) have a preexisting friendship with their spouse or child. F3 has shown how woefully inadequate these friendships are for men.
As I reflected on Jesus’s words of calling us “friends,” I realized that many of us relate to Jesus in very similar ways.
1) Legacy Friendship: Perhaps you once had a vibrant relationship with Jesus back in high school. Back then you spent intentional time with Jesus and gathered mementos of those moments like a Bible or prayer Journal or cross necklace. You rocked out to some tunes by DC Talk and Jars of Clay. You may have even met Jesus at a summer camp and claimed you would be friends forever like your mutual buddy Michael W. Smith had said. But over the years, as you grew up, you have found yourself spending less and less time with Him. Your paths started to diverge in college and over time the demands of life pulled upon you. When you see Him pop up on your Facebook feed, you might recall some “glory day” moments when you think back to those “simpler times.” But these days, it’s really hard to squeeze in the time and attention it would take to recultivate that sort of relationship again. So, you check-in annually around Christmas to make sure He knows you still think of Him, but really there is no on-going connection.
2) Work Buddies: Perhaps, your relationship with Jesus is really busy right now. If asked, you would say Jesus is a good friend and we will always be friends. However, if you were honest, you know the reason you are talking to Him right now is because there is a particular task upon your “desk” that requires His help. Maybe you called him up because you are trying to make a job decision, or are having a marital issue, or are waiting (im)patiently on a doctor’s diagnosis. So you and Jesus have rolled up the sleeves and gotten to work. You’ve dusted off the old Bible and are flipping through the index looking for some answers. Your prayers are lists of action items that you need Jesus to get completed by a certain deadline. Once the job is done, though, your relationship will cease. He is less of a friend and more of a consultant…or more likely a woefully underpaid employee.
3) Man-Dates: Perhaps, your relationship with Jesus is really the dreaded of all male friendships–that awkward man-date. Your relationship is based upon your wife’s involvement with the church (or your child’s engagement in youth group). You always hope you can drop them off at the curb, but every once and awhile, you and Jesus bump into each other. In those brief moments, you try desperately to recall those stories your wife goes on and on about while you were watching the game. You want to think of something to say, so you ask Him how that water into wine venture is going…but glaze over as He starts talking about the promises of an abundant life that will bear much fruit. When your wife is finally ready to go, you shake hands with Jesus and obligatorily say, “We should get together some time.” Once you are out the door and back into your car, however, your mind is back to the important things of life.
Is your relationship with Jesus like one of those? An old story from the past? A practical, emotionless business relationship? Or an awkward man-date encounter?
What would it look like, however, to cultivate a deeper and abiding relationship with Jesus? What if he was a true friend who is available to call upon in crisis, but also a friend that you are comfortable sitting with in silence? A friend who wants to invest His time into your life, to sharpen and spur you on towards love and good deeds. What if he was a friend who would not cringe or minimize when you start to tear up? A man you could confess to and feel no shame or judgment from because of your failures? A friend who looks at you and asks, “How are you really doing?” A friend that would call you out for being a knucklehead, and tells you to go back into the house and apologize to your wife.
What type of friendship do you want with Jesus?