Who’s your best friend?

July 21, 2008

Pastor Bill Baldwin, Prairie Evangelical U.C.C., Lester Prairie

Recently, someone asked me, “If you knew for sure that God was your very best friend in the world, who would remain your friend no matter what, how would your life be different?”

You wouldn’t think I would have had to think about that question, but I did.

I, like so many people, grew up being taught about a God who wants the best for us, but who would not hesitate to strike us with a lightning bolt to get our attention or to punish us for some wrongdoing. There was always the idea that God really doesn’t accept me because I am such a miserable worm, but if I were to believe in Jesus in just the right way, and behave myself, He might have mercy on me and spare me the eternal damnation I’ve got coming.

Now, I do believe I have grown a lot since my childhood indoctrination, but I still have remnants of unhealthy levels of fear. Though I believe “God so loved the world,” I still read in the Bible that He really doesn’t like us much since we are such mess-ups most of the time. Part of me still waits to be hit upside the head with God’s full wrath, and I am supposed to believe I deserve it.

So when I was posed the question about how things would be different if I believed that God really, really loved me, as a best friend loves and supports you through thick and thin, it did cause me to rethink how I understand God in my life these days.

What if I knew for sure that God absolutely loves me, mess-ups and all? What if I knew that God would remain on my side, even on the days I turn my back on God and try to go it alone? What if I knew that I had the freedom to give almost anything a try and God would still be there to pick me up and patch me up if everything came crashing down?

It occurs to me that many people are turned off by Christianity because of the implied teaching that God only accepts those who properly accept Jesus as Savior, which implies that God otherwise isn’t on our side and would have to abandon us to eternal damnation for the foolishness of not believing properly in His Son. That image of God just doesn’t set right with me.

I have to believe that God loves me with a love larger than any love on earth. I have to believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a sign and seal of the reality of that immense love.

I know that the Bible certainly has teachings of a “turn or burn” theology. That is, that unless we turn from our sin and trust in Jesus as Savior, we will burn in hell for our sinful rebellion.

The Jesus I want on my side is the one who asked, when he saw those who were about to stone a sinful woman, the one who was without sin to cast the first stone. That is the kind of friend I would want in my corner.

It makes a great difference to know that God is my best friend and advocate in the entire universe. I do not believe that God stands ready to judge me just for being a sinner, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

I don’t know what it takes to be cut off eternally from God, but it is not ours to decide. Ours is to live in God’s love, to live in the all-forgiving love of Christ.

I don’t have it all figured out yet, especially about what will happen to those who choose not to affiliate with Christianity in any way. My part is to proclaim the immensity of God’s love shown to us most clearly through His Son Jesus Christ. I can proclaim the love of God in Christ, but I can’t force a single person to accept it.

As a good pastor friend of mine recently said, “I’m just God’s mailman. God gives me the message to deliver, but I can’t do anything about what someone does with what I deliver. That’s between them and God.”

And so it is. God loves us immensely. Let that sink in, to help you through the challenging days, and to heighten the joy of the best days.

Blessings. Amen.