There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. [John 15:13-15 (NLT)]
I have a young friend who’s quite a sports fan. Not only can he spout statistics for his favorite baseball and football players, he can recite the biographies of the top American Ninja Warriors as well. He knows about several athletes and yet none of them know anything about him or would recognize him on the street. I don’t know which team he favored for last Sunday’s Super Bowl but I’m sure he knew who led in kicking and punting or kick and punt returns. Enthusiastic fans do more than know the stats—they often wear team jerseys and may even paint their faces. The prevalence of blue and red shirts on Sunday made it clear the fans at our church favored the Patriots. Considering all the whooping, hollering, high fives and fist bumps that occurred later that day while watching the Super Bowl, you’d think the fans were the ones scoring the points. Using the pronoun “we” for their favored team, they moaned about calls, trash talked the opposition and analyzed plays as if they were on the field. Although fans can dress like their favorite team member, know the stats for the players, and watch every game, they’re not on a first name basis with any of the team. Neither friends nor acquaintances, they’re just fans.
There’s nothing wrong with being a fan. It binds us with other people and gives us a sense of belonging. It’s a way to capture a little feeling of glory and achieve victory when we can’t attain it ourselves. If nothing else, it gives us something to talk about with strangers. There is, however, a big difference between fandom and friendship.
Are we fans of Jesus or are we His friends? Rather than stats, do we quote Bible verses? Rather than games, do we attend worship services? Instead of hosting a tailgate, do we serve at church? Rather than buy team merchandise, do write a check for a good cause? While all are worthwhile, none of these make us anything more than fans. Knowing Bible verses, worshipping, serving at church, and even tithing are no substitute for a relationship with Jesus. It’s not enough to know about Him or to do for Him. He wants us to be His friends rather than His fans; He wants to know us and for us to truly know Him.
Unlike fandom, Christianity is not a spectator sport. God wants fellowship with us; he wants to know us personally. Prayer is what takes us from fandom to friendship. In prayer, we summon all of the enthusiasm we have for God and use it to speak with Him. While few of us will ever meet or eat with Ninja Warrior Joe Moravsky or the Patriots’ Tom Brady, Jesus welcomes us into His heart every day and invites us to break bread with Him regularly. We’re only a prayer away from Him. We can celebrate an athlete’s victories or we can celebrate God’s grace with the one who was victorious over sin and death!
Fan or friend—which one is it?
What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer! [Joseph Scriven]
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. [Romans 5:11 (NLT)]
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