Despite my attempts to the contrary, I have sometimes found myself in meetings and hallway discussions with fellow employees whose title substantially outranks my own. These vice presidents, directors, and general managers are usually pretty nice, and I don’t have anything against them for having earned their way up to their respective roles. However, given my propensity to say stupid things, I prefer to make it a habit of not talking too much with those who can fire me! A friendly conversation is one thing, but saying the wrong thing to the wrong people could land me in hot water.
Jesus Christ is far more powerful than anyone at the company where I work. He is more powerful than any government or military leader, and more powerful than the richest people on earth. As the Creator of the universe, and God Himself, Jesus can do far more than just fire us from a job. He has the authority to judge us, and to deliver to us the appropriate consequences for our rebellion, selfishness, and pride.
However, Jesus also makes this statement to His disciples, and it would seem that the same could be extended to all of Jesus’ followers:
You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:14-15 NIV
The Creator of the universe is willing to call imperfect, sinful human beings His friends! (Note that this is a fundamentally different perspective from certain other belief systems, where God remains aloof and detached from humankind, or where God is just too mighty and different to interact with people directly. In these words of Jesus, we find a God that is still just as powerful and holy, who no man or woman could approach on their own merits, but also a God who chose to reach out to us and re-establish a relationship.)
Later in the Bible, Paul writes the following, to the church in Rome:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Romans 8:29 NIV
Here, Jesus is like our oldest brother, as we are both members of the same family: Him by nature, us by adoption. (A possible alternate reading on “firstborn” is “supreme”, but I think that this makes the same point.)
In my experience, I have found siblings to squabble and bicker a lot (especially when they are younger), but also to stand up for each other when a third party messes with their brother or sister. Jesus isn’t going to pick on us, but He tangibly demonstrates that He loves us greatly through both His willing sacrifice to save us, and His ongoing intercession for us.
However, we must still remember that as close as Jesus is to us, and as personal as our relationship with Him can be, He is still Lord. He is Creator. He is powerful. He is righteous. He expects obedience. He is God.
We might joke around with a friend at work, but insulting them (even jokingly) in front of other co-workers is probably a bad idea. My younger kids might have fun playing a game with an older sibling, but when the older one has been given responsibility for watching over the household (while my wife and I are out), the older one is in charge, and the younger ones are expected to follow his direction.
In the same way, while our relationship with Jesus is closer (because He knows our very thoughts) than any friend or sibling on earth, this is not something to be abused. Just because we are friends with God Himself, doesn’t mean that we can get away with sin. Just because we were adopted into God’s family doesn’t mean that we can treat Him with disrespect.
So, may we truly appreciate the joy that comes from a restored relationship with a God who wants us to walk and talk with Him. (If you haven’t found this, I hope and pray that you will choose to learn about Jesus, accept His gift of reconciliation, and then choose to follow Him. It is a great privilege, indeed, and it is open to everyone, no matter what we’ve done in the past.) Even though this relationship can be closer than any friend or family member, though, may we always remember that God is in charge. He is holy and righteous, and that doesn’t change because He reached out to us in love.
(A special shout-out to my friend Brad Hammond, whose comments about a “Jesus is my homeboy” T-shirt years ago inspired this article.)