Declaring Friendship With Jesus -- And Vice Versa

Declaring Friendship With Jesus -- And Vice Versa

A Story by Bishop R. Joseph Owles

“A student doesn’t know more than his teacher. A slave isn’t of higher social rank than his owner. If the student is lucky, he’ll one day know as much as his teacher. If a slave is lucky, he’ll one day be set free and be on the same level as his owner. Yet, if people say that the slave owner is demonic, then won’t the insults that they’ll hurl against his slaves be even worse?
    
“So don’t be afraid of them! Nothing is now hidden that won’t one day be uncovered. There is no secret that can be kept forever. So let everything I say in private become public knowledge! Shout it from the rooftops, even if I whisper it to all of you! Don’t be afraid of anyone who can have you executed, because they have no power over your soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can both have you executed and toss your soul onto the fiery garbage heap of hell. Come on! Two sparrows are cheap on the open market; yet, not one of them falls down to earth without your Father being aware of it! God has been counting the hairs of your head! So don’t be afraid! All of you are worth a lot more to God than sparrows!
    
“In my Father’s presence in heaven, I’ll publicly acknowledge friendship with anyone who acknowledges friendship with me in front of other people. But I will deny friendship in my Father’s presence in heaven with those who deny friendship with me in front of other people.

~ As Matthew Tells It
The New Peace Treaty: A New Translation of the New Testament



Most people seem to love Jesus in theory, but not in practice. They love the idea of Jesus, but not the reality of Jesus. This appears to be just as true within the Church as it is outside of it. This is not a “worldly” reaction, it is a general human reaction. Many people treat Jesus they way they treat the government: they want to receive good things, but they do not want to be required to commit to providing good things for others.

There is an idea that pervades many in church, and many who share a cultural identification with Christianity, that we can have Christ without commitment -- salvation without sacrifice. I know some people get upset when I say things like this, usually Protestants who feel the need to remind me that we are saved through grace, and that grace is a free gift from God. I am not denying that. Grace is a free gift from God, but just because something is a free gift, it does not mean that there is no effort on my part. I have received many free gifts over the course of my life in which “assembly was required” and “batteries were not included”; I had to make an effort in getting the gift that I received to work the way it was intended. I can receive a computer for Christmas -- it is a free gift -- but it is not going to work if I leave it wrapped up in a box under the tree. I cannot say I am on Facebook or any other Social Media just because I received the free gift of the computer. I have to do the work of unwrapping it, taking it out of the box, setting it up, installing the software, spending time talking to tech support because something invariably goes wrong during the set up, turning it on, connecting to the internet, typing -- that free gift of a computer requires a lot of action on my part for that free gift to be claimed and function the way it is intended.

So those of us who receive the free gift of grace are no better than the one who gives us the free gift. Certainly Jesus, who bestows that free gift to us, was in full possession of that gift Himself. If Jesus has it to give to us, He has it for Himself. We are the recipients of grace; Jesus is the one who bestows that grace; therefore, we are no richer in grace than Jesus. The receiver is not greater than the giver, any more than the student is greater than the teacher, or the slave is greater than the master.

How do students learn? By listening to the teacher, by doing the assignments, by doing the work required to learn. But it is more than that. I not only learned information from my mentors, I learned a style, a way of passing along that information to others. My New Testament Professor, who was my mentor, taught me as much about himself as he did about the New Testament, and somehow by knowing him, I learned the New Testament better. It was not just information and material, he brought it to life and gave me a basis for understanding. As I learned, I found that I did not always understand it the way he did. But it comes down to the fact that pretty much everything I know about the New Testament, I learned from him. If I am lucky, I will one day be the scholar that he is.

But the point is that a good student does the work. A good servant or slave does what he is told. Jesus is both the teacher and the master; therefore, we are to do the work and do what we are told. We know we are doing it correctly when we get treated the same way Jesus did. Jesus tells us:

“It’s those who have been persecuted because they are in a right relationship with God who are blessed
        because the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

“All of you are blessed,
whenever they denounce you, whenever they persecute you, whenever they slander you, spreading lies about you because of me. Celebrate when this happens! Be extremely grateful! You’ll receive a huge reward in heaven!  Remember, they persecuted the prophets long before they persecuted all of you.

This is how they treated the Teacher and the Master, so this is how the students and the servants can expect to be treated.
   
Jesus reminds us that there are worse things than dying. We are not to be afraid of humans and powers that have the power to kill; we are to be afraid of the power that can toss us into hell. The hell here is gehenna. It was a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem that burned continually (hence my translation "the fiery garbage heap of hell"). It is Jesus’ metaphor for separation from God. Jesus is reminding us that it is better to be cut off from this life then it is to be cut off from God -- because if we are cut off from God, we have no life, here or anywhere else. Death is separation. To die is to be separated from this world. To be separated from God is eternal death.
   
Jesus also reminds us that we are important to God, regardless of how unimportant we may be to those in the world, or even regardless of how unimportant we may feel. Sparrows were cheap and provided the ability of the poor to make sacrifices. There were probably many who were sacrificing bulls and sheep who looked down on those who were only sacrificing sparrows. It probably seemed like an unimportant sacrifice made my an unimportant person. But no matter how unimportant it may seem to others, it was important enough for God to notice. God saw it and paid attention to it and regarded it exactly the same as God regarded the more expensive and more impressive sacrifices. No matter how unimportant we may be, we are very important to God. We are no less important than anyone else. So do not be afraid of anyone! They are no better than we are; they are no closer to God than we are. The only power anything in this world has is the power to kill; yet, the power to kill is not the power to destroy us or keep us down.
   
Jesus will publicly declare His friendship with us if we publicly declare our friendship with Him. This is not passing along manipulative photo updates on Facebook. This is not even telling others that we are Christian or talking about Jesus. This is about living like Jesus. I am a friend to Jesus because I do the will of the Father in heaven -- Jesus’ words, not mine. Not everyone who says He is their Lord enters into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of His Father in heaven. Jesus shows us what that will is. Everything Jesus does and says is the will of His Father; therefore, if we are to do the will of His Father, then we are to do what Jesus did. If we love Him, He tells us, then we will keep His commandments. When we keep His commandments and live the way He told us to live, then we are publicly declaring our love and friendship for Him, and no matter how bad we are treated for living like Jesus, we will be welcomed with open arms in the Kingdom of Heaven.
   
We can mention His name. We can say we love Him. But if we are all talk and no action, if our lives do not conform to how He said to live, if we hate instead of love, condemn instead of forgive, withhold instead of give, trust in money, power, prestige instead of God, then we do not love Him, and we are not His friends, neither are we His disciples, nor His servants -- we are strangers and name-droppers, and when we meet Jesus face-to-face, He will tell us that He has no idea who we are.
   
We declare our friendship with Jesus by how we live, by how we use what we have, by who we let ourselves become. Who is better off in a kingdom than a friend of the king? So if we are friends with Jesus, we are friends with the King, and we are important, no matter what our background or circumstance. Others may be jealous of our friendship with the King, but they can do nothing to destroy our friendship. Even if they kill us, they only make our bond of friendship stronger. So there is nothing to be afraid of in this world because nothing can separate us from the love of God we have in Christ Jesus.
   
We are no better off than He was, and if we are lucky, we may one day be like Him if we are willing to do the work to learn how to be like Him.

© 2013 Bishop R. Joseph Owles


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I have prayed so much these last few days that I think I must be getting on someone's nerves. God sent a rainbow to say "hey, I hear you already."

Working on patience

Posted 11 Years Ago


Bishop R. Joseph Owles

11 Years Ago

The problem with patience is that it takes too long...

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Added on July 13, 2013
Last Updated on July 22, 2013
Tags: Bible, Jesus Christ, Church, God, heaven, earth, Holy Spirit, Christian, Christianity, teaching, apostles, ministry, kingdom, Catholic, belief, death, resurrection, friend, master, servant, sparrow

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Bishop R. Joseph Owles
Bishop R. Joseph Owles

Alloway, NJ



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