A Friend Request From God?
(James 4: 1-12)

How would you react if, one morning, you opened Facebook and saw a friend request from Jesus? Would your reaction be, “man, I haven’t heard from Jesus in ages, I wonder what he’s been up to? It’d be great to connect up with him and see what’s new.” Every once in a while, an old friend reaches out to me and sends a friend request which I gladly accept, and we engage in a conversation where we catch up on all we’ve done since we last had contact. We go on each other’s page and look at all the photographs and trade stories about the good-old-days.

Sometimes, though, you get a request from someone you don’t know or barely remember. For some reason there a quite a few pretty Russian girls who want to be my friend. I guess I have a friendly face. You have to watch out for some of these requests because they are often a scam in disguise. Others, you barely know and wonder why they want to connect with you. So, you go on their Facebook page to check them out. First, you look to see who they are friends with to see if you have any friends in common. Then, you look to see what they’ve posted on their page. This can be a real eye-opener, reminding you of why you didn’t have much to do with them back when you were acquainted. So now you have a couple of options. You can readily accept and enjoy your time catching-up, you can accept knowing in the back of your mind that you can stop following them if they get too weird, you can ignore the request hoping they will forget they asked you, or you can decline the request and hope they don’t get their feelings hurt. I can tell you that I have a bunch I’ve stopped following, both friends and relatives, that are so far out there, they’re coming back around again. There are some you’d like to completely unfriend, but that can get extremely ugly.

So, what do you do with Jesus’ request? Well, you start by checking out his page. Let’s see who some of his friends are. I see he likes Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Jimmy Carter, I guess that makes sense. I also see Elvis, Mahalia Jackson and Robert Johnson, that’s pretty cool except I thought Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. He likes Michelangelo, Picasso and Bob Ross, interesting. Then you see a bunch of regular folks, some you even know from church and then there’s a few that are kind of sketchy. But, all-in-all, nothing that scares you off. Let’s see what he’s posted. I see a lot of pictures of the earth, guess he’s kind of partial to it, especially fond of rainbows. I see plenty of pictures of golden retrievers, kittens and baby elephants, sweet enough to make your teeth hurt. I see he shares a lot of posts on love and being a good neighbor. That figures. After thoroughly vetting him, you make the decision it’s safe to accept his friend request. Besides, he looks like a friend you could use when the going gets tough. Might make a good character witness.

Friendship is essentially what James is talking about in our scripture reading for this morning. He says in verse 4, Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. James is telling his readers that there is a battle for their souls between God and the world, with the world being evil. When we live in the world, we are subject to our selfish desires. A quarrel erupts within us as a result of our evil desires where we want more possessions, more money, higher status and more recognition. These conflicts and disputes spill over harming even our relationships with fellow believers. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to show us the way to rid ourselves of these selfish desires and to trust God to give us what we really need. James continues by asking, Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? Submit to God, he says, resist the devil and he will run away from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James paints a pretty bleak picture, but he had to because the early church was struggling between the competing interests of establishing God’s church and the powers that be who worked to defeat them and maintain the status quo. Understand, though, that God is not saying there is anything wrong with wanting a pleasurable life. God gives us many good gifts that he wants us to enjoy. But having friendships with the world involves seeking pleasure at other’s expense or at the expense of obeying God. Pleasure that keeps us from pleasing God is sinful; pleasure from God’s rich bounty is good. When the Holy Spirit fills us, we see that this world’s seductive attractions are only cheap substitutes for what God has to offer through the relationship he wants to have with us. We need a strong friend, like Jesus, who can help us withstand the attractive and deceptive lure of the evils the world has to offer.

So how do we come near to God? How do we accept his friend request? First, we must submit to God. We must yield to his authority and will, committing our lives to him and his control. We must be willing to follow him where we are led. Second, we have to resist evil in all its attractive forms and, in our weakest moments, not allow ourselves to be tempted. Third, we have to wash our hands and purify our hearts. We need to strive to lead a pure life, cleansed from sin, replacing our desires to sin with our desire to experience God’s purity. Fourth, we need to grieve and mourn for our sins. We have to genuinely repent and seek forgiveness for what we’ve done. And fifth, we must humble ourselves before the Lord, and he will lift us up.

Jesus wants so much to be your friend. Do you talk to him? When you do, what do you talk about? Do you ask only to satisfy your own desires? Do you seek God’s approval for what you already plan to do? Your prayers, your conversations with God, will become so much more powerful when you allow God to change your desires so that they perfectly correspond to his will for you.

Jesus summarized the law as love for God and neighbor, and Paul said that love demonstrated toward a neighbor would fully satisfy the law. When we fail to love, fail to act as a neighbor and a friend, we are actually breaking God’s law by an act of omission.

Although we do not deserve God’s friendship, he reaches out to us in love and gives us worth and dignity, despite our human shortcomings. Won’t you accept his friend request and follow him, follow him wherever he leads, full in the knowledge that he will always be your friend and will never leave your side? By accepting Jesus’ friend request and following the lead of the Holy Spirit, we’ll make new friends, people who really need a friend like us.

Please pray with me.

What a friend we have in Jesus. A friend who will help us bear our sins and grief. What a privilege it is to carry all our troubles to Jesus in prayer so that we do not have to needlessly bear the pain and suffering alone. How grateful we are that Jesus is always there to help us deal with our trials and temptations, so we won’t become discouraged and downtrodden. How fortunate we are that Jesus is such a faithful friend that he willingly shares our sorrows and knows our every weakness. Jesus, our savior, is our refuge who will shield us from danger, and in his arms, we will find solace. In Jesus we put our lives and through him we live. In the name of Jesus Christ, our friend forever, we pray, amen.