Friends are a good thing… a blessing. When friends are the kinds of people who make you think; then all the better! David had Jonathan. Paul had Barnabas. I am humbled to have a handful of friends too. If you’re thinking of a few of yours right now, just stop a sec and whisper a thank you to our Father for that gift.
One of those friends recently wrote on his blog (http://larryeubanks.blogspot.com) about the degree to which Jesus was a likeable guy. After visiting with him, talking about the subject, and reading the article I have found myself thinking, that’s a good question.
I’m pretty new to the whole social network world. And, among the things that confused me right off the bat, was using friend as a verb (“I friended him/her”). This seemed to be synonymous with liking him/her which, it turns out, has nothing to do with knowing him or her in the old-school, face-to-face sort of way.
Then, people who crossed a certain threshold of friends began to collect followers who you could then fan (another noun used as a verb… of course, we used it as a verb when I was a kid to describe the action of swinging a literal, handheld fan – usually with a picture of the local funeral home on it – in front of your face while on the porch on a summer Georgia evening).
But I digress.
Here’s how Larry opened his article, “Here’s something I’ll bet you’ve never considered: if you were around when Jesus lived on the earth, would you even like him?” I told you, thought provoking!
He whistled through a short bio of good stuff Jesus did… healing sick people, embracing outsiders, telling great stories.
He reminisced of the songs he sang as a child … songs about Jesus loving all the children of the world and Jesus loving me.
He even sited the Doobie Brothers’ 1972 hit, “Jesus is Just Alright” indicating if the Doobie Brothers liked Jesus, well, who wouldn’t?!
He concluded, “Jesus was like all my childhood heroes: Mighty Mouse, Roy Rogers, and Brooks Robinson—he was great, and of course you liked him. It just wasn’t an issue.”
Then came the “think about it” stuff…
Larry admitted Jesus’ popularity as long as the crowds could keep it about me… my hunger, my hurt, my misfortune, my ailment… then he wrote, “But when they listened to what he had to say—I mean, really listened to what he was saying, well, they didn’t like him so much. The crowds started dwindling when he said that they should love their enemies – the Romans who beat them into submission, taxed them into poverty, and crucified their would-be liberators. Love them and pray for them, Jesus said.” Hmmm
He continued, “They wanted Jesus to raise up an army—who isn’t for the right of a nation to defend itself and to use force if need be? No one, except, it seems, Jesus. That’s a pretty unpopular position to take. Jesus wouldn’t make it through the primaries today.” Hmmm
He quoted Jesus: “Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” “Let the dead bury their dead.” “Hate your father, mother, sister, brother, your wife and kids, and your own life….” Larry wondered just how long he would sit and listen to that kind of stuff without joining the river of people heading for the Exit sign. Hmmm
Then he mused: “Among the respectable people—the people you and I would seek out if we were to travel back in time to 1st century Israel—Jesus was scandalous. He claimed the right to contradict their sacred writings, and thumbed his nose at their religious practices. He didn’t just ignore some biblical laws, he seemingly went out of his way to break them, just to prove a point and stir things up. He said that traitors and whores would enter the Kingdom of God ahead of those who took their faith seriously, and then to back it up he put his arms around them and went to supper.” Hmmm
Larry rehearsed the scene at Galilee Lake where Jesus asked Peter about his love and told him to feed His sheep. He wrote, “[Jesus] didn’t need Peter to like him, and I’m not sure he needed Peter to love him, but he needed Peter to follow him, because that’s what a disciple does.” Hmmm
Larry is never going to write a successful Hollywood romantic comedy. But he has made me think.
How often have I wrestled with love and like as our culture explains and entertains those terms… imaginatively clicking liked as I read a passage, or looking for a way to friend Jesus here, but not-so-much there?
Larry concluded his article this way: “Don’t get me wrong, I do love Jesus, I just don’t think that’s enough. I know lots of people who genuinely say they love Jesus, but they never get around to following him, to actually doing what he said to do; but I daresay that no one can follow Jesus for long without coming to love him….”
- When/where in my life am I only a friend?
- When am I merely a fan?
- When am I honestly a follower?
There is no God Day on the calendar for which I can get a care-enough-to-send-the-very-best Hallmark card and mail it… (where?). There is no way to deliver a box-of-chocolates to the Savior I adore. There is no guarantee that a way-to-go-God balloon floating out of my hands would ever come to God’s attention.
Jesus once said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15, NIV) That’s the shift point from friend and fan, to follower.
Larry said it like this: “[Jesus] needed Peter to follow him, because that’s what a disciple does.”