This is the last in a series of posts on the doctrine of Love. Click here to see the entire series.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Notice that the author did not say that a wife or a husband loves at all times. We know all too well that husbands and wives frequently do not love at all times. A friend, who is a friend indeed, is defined by the fact that he does love at all times. This characteristic is not used to describe other love relationships. This characteristic gets to the heart of the matter. A true friend is one who loves at all times. A true friendship is characterized by the fact that it is not broken or disturbed as a result of unloving thoughts and acts.
Proverbs 18: 24 says, “A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Here we find the writer of the proverb making an excellent point about the relationship between pseudo-friends (or what Lewis calls “acquaintanceships”) and true friends. In the course of making his point about true friendship he also makes the point that friendship is superior to brotherly affection. This is a very important point. A man with many “friends” comes to ruin. Why? Because they were not true friends. However, there is one, a true friend, who is more emotionally and relationally close than even a physical brother.
We find an example of this type of friendship in the relationship of David and Jonathan. Morally perverted interpreters of the Bible have taken this relationship and distorted it into a homosexual one. They have been forced to do this because they have no conception of the powerful emotional intensity found within friendship, choosing instead to believe that erotic love is the king of the emotions. II Samuel 1: 26 contains David’s statement about Jonathan after David had found out about his death. David says, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.” It is easy to see how sexual perverts can misinterpret this verse. David actually has the audacity to assert that his friendship for Jonathan was more emotionally powerful than any of his erotic relationships with his wives and concubines! A statement like that would get him thrown out of most evangelical churches today. David knew the nature of friendship and clearly stated that it was the most intense and passionate of the human love emotions.
Maybe I have convinced you about the nature of friendship, but what about our emotional relationship to God? How are we to understand it? I would suggest that we would be best served by extending our understanding of phileo to our relationship with God as well. Erotic love for God is impossible and nonsensical. Storge affection for God, if it could exist between a created being and it’s Creator (which I do not think is possible), would be trivial at best. Phileo, as the connection of the soul of man with the Spirit God, is precisely what we find to be the case. God has made us in His image. Our relationship to Him should be grounded in agape love. Our relationship to Him can be bathed in the emotional love of friendship, if we are serious about pursuing it.
Friendship With God
Abraham is our spiritual father, if we are believers. The covenant that God makes with us today is an extension of the covenant that He made with Abraham thousands of years ago. The faith of Abraham serves as the example of biblical faith that is imputed as righteousness to God’s people. In James 2:23 we see the following statement about Abraham, “…and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’ and he was called the friend of God.” Arguably, Abraham had the most intimate relationship with God of all of the Old Testament saints. The New Testament describes him as God’s friend.
John 15: 13-15 contains one of the most powerful statements about our relationship with God in all of the Scriptures. Jesus is instructing His disciples just prior to His crucifixion. As a part of this instruction to them, at the end of His earthly ministry, He says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Most Christians today read over that passage with nary an emotional response. That should come as no surprise since the nature and quality of most believer’s friendships is poor at best. In light of what the Bible says about friends, should it not thrill our hearts to have Jesus tell us that we are now His friends?
There is no greater emotional connection that the connection of friendship. There is no more passionate relationship than that of friends. Friendship outstrips affection and eros in dignity, worth, and intensity. The fact that it is felt by so few does not change the nature of this reality. Jesus calls us His friends. Why do so few know this? Even more, why do so few feel this?
Earlier we looked at I Corinthians 16:22 which says, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed.” The focus of that section was upon the fact that Paul did not believe cursing people was inconsistent with the doctrine of love. What I did not mention is the fact that the condition the curse is contingent upon is the lack of phileo. When Paul says, “If anyone does not love the Lord”, he is saying, “If anyone does not phileo the Lord.” Jesus has called us His friends. Is He ours? Do we phileo Him? Popular Christian music is filled with “I love you Lord”. What is being said? Does anybody have any idea what they mean when they say they love the Lord? Does anybody understand what it means to phileo the Lord? Does anybody understand the consequences of not phileo-ing the Lord? I fear not.
I believe most Christians do not recognize Jesus as their friend because they have little or no experience with human friendships, just as Lewis asserted. I also believe that the primary reason most Christians have no experience with friendship is because they have filled their lives with things and roles of little or no significance. The lives of most believers are so filled with things, behaviors, and practices that do not matter. It is literally the case that there is no time left to discover and cultivate a friendship. Most believers, I believe it is fair to say, don’t even know who they are as individuals, they do not know themselves when they stand as naked personalities. The average believer is defined by his roles. He is a husband, a chemist, a father, a golfer, and an aficionado of antique cars. But who is he when everything is stripped away? Who is he when he stands, as Lewis says, with a naked personality? Very few people are able to answer this question and, as a result, very few people have experienced the joy and thrill of friendship, with others or with God.
I believe most Christians do not feel friendship with Jesus primarily because they are at odds with His will and purposes. Friendship is based upon commonality. It is not possible to cultivate a friendship with one with whom you are at odds. It is not possible to cultivate a friendship with one whom you are at cross purposes. Given the almost total biblical illiteracy of today’s Evangelical, it is practically impossible that the Jesus of the Bible will ever be experientially encountered. Given the horrible theology and beliefs about God held in the minds of the average Evangelical, it is virtually impossible for a friendship with the true and living God to develop. There is just too much distance between what the believer believes and does and the real nature and character of God for a friendship to be discovered and cultivated. As a result, most Christians live their lives in relationship with a God of their own imaginations, or, at best, with a figment of the God of the Bible.
Evangelicals have no theologically precise doctrine of love. The doctrine of love, as evidenced by the behavior of most Evangelicals, is completely contrary to the doctrine of love taught in the Bible. The doctrine of love clearly explicated in the Bible is consistent throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The biblical doctrine of love has significant inter-testamental changes that are routinely ignored by the Evangelical. The practice of this corrupt doctrine of love is responsible for the physical, psychic, and spiritual harm of thousands of people, believers and unbelievers, around the world. This fraudulent doctrine of love has destroyed our ability to practice biblical forgiveness and discipline. This abhorrent doctrine of love has made biblical evangelism impossible. The elevation of emotional loves over agape has rendered our relationships with each other, in the church and in the family, unfruitful and contentious. We need to repent and return to the biblical doctrine of love.