On the day my boss hired me, he took me aside in a booth for our interview, and in the course of it he said, “I will be friendly to you but you must remember that I am not your friend.” I knew what he meant: “There are boundaries here; remember that I am the boss and you are not.”
I often think of my employer’s words as I work in close quarters with him and he exchanges pleasantries with me day after day. Is he changing his mind? No. Is he being disingenuous? No. I have come to the conclusion that his smiles and kind words are not phony—they are just not friendship. And when all it said and done, I appreciate knowing the parameters of our relationship.
Parameters of relationship are porous and confused in our modern day, where 300 people call themselves your “friend” on Facebook. Many of us have done our children a disservice by being friends (in the sense of defining no authority differential) to our children. A colleague at the restaurant was telling me today that she disliked her daughter’s first boyfriend. Why? Because he would call her “Dude.” “You can call me Mrs. R____, or you can call me Donna,” she told him, “but don’t call me ‘Dude.’”
All of which makes it extraordinary that Jesus calls us his “friends.” If I may not call my boss my friend, and this girl’s boyfriend may not call Donna by a nickname indicating friendship, how is it that the likes of Jesus says to the likes of you and me, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15)?
In the course of the conferring of this great privilege, Jesus divulged something of a definition of friendship. It is the confiding of secrets: “All that I have heard from the Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus also divulged friendship’s conditions: “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (verse 14).
This divine disclosure of the nature and condition of friendship with God finds striking confirmation in Psalm 25:14: “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”
Abraham obeyed God to the point of sacrificing his own son, and in return God saw to it that all generations after him would hear these words: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness—and he was called a friend of God” (James 2:23).
You may not have real friends on Facebook, and you may not hope to be friends with my restaurant boss. But you and I, like Abraham, are able to believe God and obey Him, and be counted in that inner circle that are called the friends of God.