From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Sixteen, Day Four
Jesus is not only Lord and Master but the greatest of all friends, who willingly proved his friendship by his death on the cross. By this costly gesture he has won the friendship of millions of men and women from every tongue and tribe and nation. When you pray to Jesus your Friend, you are praying to the One who loved you before you were loveable and who links you together with his many friends throughout the world.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13
Praying the Name
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.' " Matthew 11:19
Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:4-10
Reflect On: James 4:4-10.
Praise God: For drawing near to us.
Offer Thanks: For the ways God has humbled you, making you more open to his grace.
Confess: Any patterns of pride in your life.
Ask God: Ask God to show you areas in your life that require greater humility.
Between the ages of six and fourteen I attended eight different schools. Each time I dreaded the transition, bracing myself for the job of crossing a divide that seemed too wide for a shy girl to bridge. Over and over, making new friends, finding my place, trying to get comfortable in my uncomfortable skin — I hated the whole thing.
A couple of years ago I read My First White Friend, the compelling story of African-American writer Patricia Raybon's struggles to stop hating white people. At the core of her book is an experience she had in junior high. Excluded by the all-white student body, her sense of alienation was at least partially healed when one of the white students befriended her. My own transitions seemed easy by comparison.
The passage below is from a letter she wrote but never sent to Kerry Monroe, the girl who crossed the playground to become her first white friend:
"You were blonde and, truthfully, pretty. And always so happy.
"And up close your dazzling brightness — and that perky, bubbly effervescence: like a white champagne that wouldn't go flat — was otherworldly.
"TV didn't prepare me for my first white friend.
"TV primed me, in fact, to hate anybody who looked anything like you. . . .
"But you were saving me. And I watched you, talking to me and laughing matter-of-factly on that playground, and I could have knelt down on the ground and held you tight, and let the gratitude wash over me, even while I wanted not to need your human kindness.
"At fourteen, I couldn't admit I needed it.
"Even now, I'm supposed to dismiss your little niceness. I can even hear in my head, as I did then, the memory of the practiced put-downs:
"White girls — they so phony. . . .
"But, Kerry, here's the thing:
"After all these years, I have to say it. Thank you.
"Thank you, Kerry Monroe.
"This thing you did was a full thing. A God thing, maybe."
"A God thing, maybe" — a Christ thing, certainly. Like Kerry Monroe crossing that playground to make friends with Patricia Raybon, Jesus took the first step toward us, basing his offer of friendship not on a set of shared interests or on mutual admiration — the usual basis for friendship — but solely on his love.
But there's a catch: None of us will ever be attractive enough, good enough, or successful enough to warrant his friendship. Paradoxically, it is only by exposing the brokenness inside us that we can be admitted to this friendship. Because Jesus is only and always a friend of sinners, of people who are broken enough to know their need.
As you seek to deepen your friendship with Christ, ask for the grace to expose your brokenness to him. Let Jesus probe you and wash you and reveal to you any ways in which you may be compromising your relationship with him by making friends with this world. Then stick close to him by cultivating the virtue of humility, letting him decide when and how to lift you up.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.