Jesus, Friend or Authority Figure?

Written and Media by Maggie Schoepke.


What a friend we have in Jesus/All our sins and griefs to bear/And what a privilege to carry/Everything to God in prayer.”

This 1855 song by Joseph M. Scriven caused a lot controversy over the years. Is Jesus a friend or authority figure? Is it possible for Him to be both? What does being a friend according to Christ even look like?

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These questions can be answered in the wisdom of God’s Word. One of the most quoted verses about friendship is John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” This verse paints a picture of the companionship Christ showed when he died for our sins on the cross. The context that surrounds this verse is John 15: 12, 14-15. It reads,

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you… You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

It’s easy to view Jesus as an authority figure because He takes on a parental role in our lives. While this is thankfully true, Jesus also commands us, as his followers, to examine our relationship with Him as more than master and servant. We are also His disciples and encouraged to partake in His handiwork and revel in His perfect plan. Unfortunately, the desire for companionship can turn one-sided if we only go to Him in times of trouble. There is danger in treating Him as our slave because we lose communion with Him. We must pray continually, in all circumstances, not only when we are hurting. Scriven elaborates,

Oh, what a peace we often forfeit/Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry. Everything to God in prayer.”

We need to treat Jesus as a comrade, not some far off King, hard judge, or lowly servant we can’t approach. We should follow the example of Old Testament figures who are known as “friends of God.” In Isaiah 41:8, God reminds Abraham and his people who they are to Him, “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend.” God refers to Abraham and his descendants in this way because of the faithful companionship they sought out in Him. If you are wondering how to be a friend to God, take a look at Abraham. He was loyal and obedient, and therefore, known as a friend of God.

Jesus came into the world as God and human, so why can’t He be father and friend? He is an authority figure and personal God that longs for a relationship with us. Students of Greenville College, carry out your own relationships according to God’s example, may you find counsel in the words of Proverbs 18:24,

There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”

Song used: Ocathail – Rolling in Tumbling in by Octhail/Hastio


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