It is increasingly common to hear the slogan “I love Jesus but…” Most often it is “I love Jesus but I hate religion/Christianity/the Church”. It is the slogan championed by a viral video that has earned for itself over 30.5 million viewers. The video tries to say that “Jesus came to abolish religion.” It captures a popular mood and a mindset that believes that friendship and relationship with Christ precludes obeying rules and following religious practices. Is this true?
We have to test it by what the Lord Jesus Christ Himself teaches in Scripture. His teaching is very far from this. Such slogans extol a different Jesus than the One who maintained the binding authority of God’s law (Matthew 5:17). The One who established the Church and commanded all that it must do (Matthew 16:18 and Matthew 28:19-20). What, according to Christ, does friendship with Himself involve? He tells us in the most plain and direct way that friendship with Himself must be shown and measured by our obedience. We are His friends if we do whatsoever He commands (John 15:14). We cannot say “I love Jesus, but I will not obey all of His commandments”.
In commenting on this verse, George Hutcheson shows how Christ commends His friendship to us. We should value this so highly that we seek to assure ourselves we are truly His friends. We can only have this through our friendly conduct and obedience towards Him.
We must learn from this:
- Friendship with Christ requires making sure that we are His friends. Christ’s offers of friendship are never valued as they ought to be, unless we are stirred up to make sure we are His friends. He urges His disciples to make sure of this privilege. Even disciples are not rashly to claim friendship with Christ except on this sure ground of obedience.
- Friendship with Christ is Real Friendship. There is a real friendship between Christ and believers. It involves the closest unity, harmony and agreement in mind and will, sympathy and fellow feeling. It consists of mutual delight in each other’s fellowship and condition. Therefore he says to such that they are His friends. (See 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23)
- Friendship with Christ does not absolve His friends from duty. They cannot neglect the obedience they owe as bond-servants. These two go together, to be “my friends” and to “do what I command you” (John 15:14).
- Friendship with Christ helps us in every duty. As friendship requires obedience, so only Christ’s friends can obey in the right way. Friendship will help them through the hardest duties. It will make their obedience hearty, cheerful, zealous, unlimited and constant. All of these go together with friendship to Christ.
- Friendship with Christ means unlimited obedience. Christ will not over-drive his friends in His service. Yet His dominion over them is unlimited. He is not willing that they should reject anything that He is pleased to command. They must do “whatsoever” He commands.
- Friendship with Christ is shown by obedience. Obedience to God is true evidence of friendship with Him. Those who have fled to Christ continue as servants, willing to do service to Him. He will esteem such to be His friends who “do whatsoever I command you”. (See James 2:23).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the best friend that a believer ever had. He is a kind, faithful and unchangeable friend. James Durham makes these comments on the words “this is my friend” (Song of Solomon 5:16). He says that it is a remarkable and unique comfort for people to have Christ as their friend. Not only in life, but also in death and judgment, in prosperity and adversity. Christ’s friendship involves:
- Constant kindness and faithfulness at all times (Proverbs 17:17 and 18:24). He never fails.
- Sympathy and help to meet their needs. He sticks “closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). This is the kind of love that aims at his friend’s good as well as his own.
- Familiarity in mutual communion. This is common between friends and being able to be free in speaking together (see Exodus 33:11).
- Mutual confidence as in our very own self and more than in any other. This is eminently found in Christ “the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9).
No other friends can compare to this friend. Happy, happy for evermore are those who have Christ Jesus as their friend.
Believers should lean on Christ greatly, trust Him, and expect good from Him, as their friend.