God is Not (Just) Your Best Friend
Who is God to you?
A frequent Christian response is, “He’s my best friend.”
Some Christians may not use those exact words, but their behavior suggests that they embrace the sentiment. This perspective is perhaps most evident in the familiar and casual way we pray. “Hey, what’s up, God! It’s Daniel here again.”
The knowledge that we have a best friend who will never leave or forsake us provides hope and comfort amid the disappointments of a fickle world. Yet, despite the solace this outlook provides, it can be dangerous.
Settling for Second Best
With a “best friend” understanding of God, He essentially becomes a better version of what we already have. We have close friends who are a source of encouragement, advice, and companionship. Then we add God into the mix.
God is unquestionably the highest point on the friendship spectrum, but our relationship with Him is a difference of degree rather than of kind. God is simply Best Friend 2.0.
A problem is that most people are willing to settle for second best. They may not say so, but their actions expose their easily satisfied standards.
An A on our final college exam would be ideal, but we’re okay to take a B in order to spend less time studying. Our New Year’s resolution diet would be most effective if we followed it to the letter, but by February we’re okay with adding additional cheat days. We start saying, “My goal was to lose 20 pounds, but I think I’d be fine with 10.”
We all want the “best,” but, more often than not, we settle for “good enough.”
We then take this same attitude into our relationship with God.
We know God can provide the best advice and guidance for our current situation if we commit to spend an hour praying each morning, but it’s easier to text our earthly best friend, so we settle for second best. We know scripture provides the answers we seek, but it’s easier to skim a self-help blog, so we compromise. We make New Year’s commitments to improve our spiritual disciplines, but life gets busy, so we settle for “good enough.”
When God is merely Best Friend 2.0, there’s always the temptation to settle for Best Friend 1.0.
The Holiness of God
Our interactions with God are not merely a better version of our earthly friendships; it is a different type of relationship altogether. His guidance is not just the highest degree of earthly wisdom; it flows from the realm of divine omniscience. God is not Best Friend 2.0; He is holy, eternal, perfect, and unchanging. He is God.
People talk about “wrestling with God” in the same way they might debate a stubborn co-worker or bicker with their spouse about what color to paint the living room. As my grandfather has bluntly said, “Just who do you think you’re wrestling with?”
When we pray, we’re not picking up our iPhone to check in with a good buddy (“Hey man, sorry it’s been awhile, but life’s been crazy!”); rather, we are entering into the presence of the perfect creator of the universe. In the Bible, such an experience compelled people to rip off their clothes and fall flat on their face in reverence; it caused faces to glow and people to drop dead!
Fear of the Lord
The “God is my best friend” mindset can be incredibly self-serving. Our focus is on how God relates to us rather than on how we ought to relate to Him. Like our earthly best friends, God is an add-on, an important one, of course, but someone we can adapt to our schedule nevertheless.
Have we lost sight of God’s holiness? Have we settled for gaining another friend rather than radically reorienting ourselves to a holy God?
Perhaps this “best friend” mentality explains why many Christians struggle with the biblical teaching to fear God (a concept used more than 300 times in the Bible). I once heard someone say, “You don’t fear spending time with your best friend.” Perhaps not. That is, unless your best friend also holds the world in His hands and rules the universe from a heavenly throne.
It’s easy to settle for “second best” when we have similar options available, but we will hold steadfast and desperately onto something unique and irreplaceable. In the end, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God is our best friend, but let’s keep in mind that He is not just our best friend. Indeed, He is far more than that.