I am a best friend gal. I love my best friends—my tribe of women! One of the many reasons I loved being in a sorority and on sports teams is that they gave me more time to hang out with my best friends. (And yes, I have plural best friends.)
For me, being a best friend means I will always have your back and I will love you no matter what. I will be there for you through anything, even if that means picking you up at a random dumpster after a night full of regrets. And my friends would do the same for me. My best friends inspire me, encourage me, challenge me, and make me a better person. I feel like I can tell them anything. To me, being best friends is the best!
But Jesus is not my best friend.
Yes, I love Jesus. I believe he will be there for me regardless of what I do—and he has been. I can tell him anything and he always has my back. And I will stand with Jesus, even when it’s not popular to do so. I would love to go grab a drink with him and chat for hours on end.
But he isn’t my best friend.
My best friends and I walk together. We walk side by side. But I follow Jesus.
More than just giving him my friendship, Jesus asks me to follow him. In the Gospels, Jesus called his first disciples with the words, “Follow me.” And throughout his three years of ministry, he continually told people to follow him. Sometimes that “follow me” implied going with him on mission. Other times, like when he sent the 72 to go before him, it meant people going where he sent them. Still other times, like in the example of the Samaritan woman, following him meant staying in a place.
Jesus asks us to follow him into mission too, even if what and where he calls us to is hard.
This isn’t how I operate with my friends. When I was single, one of my best friends and I did a lot of traveling together. On those trips the locations were my suggestions: New York City for musicals; Houston for the rodeo; Camden, South Carolina, for the Carolina Cup. But she didn’t follow me. We decided together to go to each place, and what we were going to do. And if she had said no, we would have found another location to travel to.
Jesus asks us to follow him—to give him our whole life and obey the commands he has set before us. And so a relationship with Jesus requires that we follow him. (And, by the way, that leads to an amazing life!)
Jesus also isn’t my best friend because I have faith in him.
I know I am so lucky when it comes to friends and family. I have been surrounded by inspiring people my whole life. Everyone from my Mema (a southern term for grandmother) to my daughter has inspired me. My best friends are equally inspirational, and two of those best friends are my sisters. I know that if I need anything, my sisters will drop anything to be by my side. I also know that my sisters will succeed in life and do great things. But my faith doesn’t come from them.
According to Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” When I’m scared, I pray to Jesus, because I have faith that he carries my fears. When I don’t know which way to turn, I turn to Jesus, because I have faith that he will lead me. I have faith in Jesus, for he is my hope. And while I love my best friends, my faith only rests in Jesus, because he is always with me, he knows me inside out, and he is my hope. My faith rests in Jesus because he is my Lord and Savior, and that is a role that only he can fulfill.
In addition, Jesus is not my best friend because he’s my Savior.
My best friends have come to my aid numerous times. Especially since I’ve become a mom, I’ve called them about every little question. They have saved me many times, and there are funny stories to go along with most of those saves. But they are not my savior. I don’t rely on my friends for my salvation. I don’t need them the way I need Jesus.
Jesus is my Savior. I don’t just love Jesus; I don’t just look up to him; he is not just my teacher. Because of Jesus’ love for the world, he came to earth as a human, living the life we should have lived and dying the death we deserved to die. And because of that love, he has given me life and freedom from sin. My very existence depends on Jesus, and my life is a response to the love he showed me.
If I saw anyone other than Jesus as my Savior, I would be dependent on them. That person wouldn’t be my best friend but rather the object of my obsession. It would be unhealthy. But Jesus invites us into a beautiful dependence on him—one based on a parent-child relationship. Ephesians 2:6 says, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Salvation through Jesus makes us a son or daughter of God and heirs to his kingdom. It gives us everything because he is over everything, and shares it with us gladly.
But best of all, Jesus is not my best friend because I am obedient to him.
Most people would argue that I have never been obedient to anyone. I can sometimes be agreeable. And sometimes I will concede to losing an argument. But for the most part, being my friend is incredibly frustrating if you want me to do something I don’t want to do (you can ask my husband!). But I still have best friends because being a best friend doesn’t require obedience. In fact, a friend that is obedient is called a stooge, and most of us don’t really care for stooges.
Jesus, however, does call for obedience. 1 John 3:23-24 says, “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” Though the verse speaks of God’s commands, these are, of course, the same commands Jesus gave when he was on earth. He asks us to be obedient.
But there’s a promise attached to that obedience. The reward for obedience is living in God and having him live in us. And that reward is literally life-changing. The more of our life we give to Jesus, the more he transforms us, and his Spirit testifies to this amazing miracle. We aren’t obedient because of fear; instead we are obedient because of love. And through that obedience, we are radically changed.
Missing the Best Part
Often we want to think of Jesus as our best friend because we want all the good things that he offers us, without the sacrifice. But Jesus just as a best friend is missing the best part of a relationship with him—the fact that he is our Savior and our Lord. Having faith in him gives us hope and gives us someone to anchor that hope in. Trusting him as our Savior allows us to become God’s children. Being obedient to him gives us an opportunity to have a full life in partnership with him, helping bring his kingdom to earth. And through our obedience to Jesus, we are transformed.
So even though I love my best friends, I’m thankful that Jesus is more than that for me. He is our Lord and Savior, and the only one worthy of our worship, our faith, and our whole lives.
Paula Frances Price is a team leader and campus staff member for InterVarsity at the University of Georgia, and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She lives with her husband, Greg Price, daughter, and puppy in Athens, Georgia, where they enjoy hanging out in the park and eating good Southern cooking!
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Laura Li-Barbour.
Read the other posts in our “Jesus Is Not . . .” series: