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Choose your friendship

September 20, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 4:4-6

4 You unfaithful people! 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. 5 Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? 6 But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble [Proverbs 3:34].

Daily Reflection & Prayer

When he called the quarreling Christians “you unfaithful people,” James used an idea from the Old Testament prophets. “When Israel broke covenant with God and pursued idols, God charged her with adultery (e.g., Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:1–3; Ezekiel 16:15–17; Hosea 1–3).” * James was concerned that they didn’t understand that it doesn’t work to serve God once in a while and revert to the values of the world around us the rest of the time.

  • Scholar Patrick Hartin underscored the starkness of the choice James outlined: “This is the heart of James’ letter. The readers are given a choice: friendship with God or friendship with the world.” ** In human relationships, we often remark that some people are “afraid of commitment,” and want to “play the field.” To what extent have you struggled (or do you still struggle) with being “afraid of commitment” when it comes to your relationship with God?
  • Being “the world’s friend” can just happen without a conscious choice. “If you don’t reflect on what you’re doing but just pick up habits of mind and body from all around you, the chances are you will become ‘friends’ with ‘the world’ in this sense. You will be ‘normal’. It takes guts to stand out and be different. It also takes thought, decision and determination.” *** In what ways has it taken decision and determination for you to choose to be friends with God?

Lord God, sometimes I really want to be your committed friend; sometimes not so much. By your Spirit’s presence, help me choose to be faithful to my choice even when it takes determination. Amen.

GPS Insights

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

Imagine if a friend suddenly cut ties with you. No calls, no texts, not even in response to yours. Weeks later, you bump into him in a grocery store and politely inquire what’s going on. He responds, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ve done everything you told me! I cheered for the Chiefs! I wore my Charlie Hustle shirt so everyone knows how much I love Kansas City! I even stayed away from those expensive lattes you told me not to spend so much money on! Aren’t you proud of me?”

It’s interesting that the duality that James mentions in today’s passage is based around friendship—friendship with God, or friendship with the world. I think all of us instinctively know friendship is about a lot more than just avoiding things that make the other person mad. A good friendship can be fun and even life-saving, but it takes time, honesty, and trust. Our friends never ask for a weekly report of what we avoided on their behalf. (Note: if your friends do this, you need new friends.) Friends want to share their lives with us. True friends want to be there for your good times and your bad times.

So often, we tend to define our relationships with God not as friendships, but as purity tests. God is a cosmic hall monitor that expects a good report, and we’re eager to give it to him—but then we’re eager to get on with the rest of our lives with our real friends. We place a great deal of emphasis on individual morality and we often judge that not by the time and emotion we invest into something, but purely based on what we abstain from. Abstaining from evil is important, but in no way is it a relationship.

As James said, our relationships with God are more similar to friendships. This does not mean you set out an extra Xbox controller for God. It means you invite and expect God for the day-to-day parts of your life that take place outside the walls of the church. That’s not to say that God wants to simply be our friend that we hang out with when we’re having fun. Our God is a God of social justice and he wants all of us to be a part of that too. But inviting God to be a part of big things in your life begins with inviting him to be a part of small things in your life. In the end, it’s about inviting God to be a part of everything in your life.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Comment on James 4:4 in NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

** Patrick J. Hartin, study note on James 4:4 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 458NT.

***Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 27). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.