Friend Zone

Something went over my head when I was not looking, or, something sneaked by while I was aging.

There are stuff out there that you take for granted but as time goes by it does not stay the same anymore.  When I first heard about “friend zone” I had this warm thoughts about it until my then-preteen son explained it to me and things were never the same since.  It seems that the term “friend zone” is used to “limit” a relationship between a boy and a girl to a platonic level or maybe even something less as it kills more than simply the romantic or sexual possibilities.  It is usually something girls used to stop romantic advances dead in the water.


Forget for a while that this deal is about boys and girls getting together (to keep it simple really; not that I am excluding LGBT possibilities); but putting a roadblock to something possibly intimate is the same as killing the relationship—like where else could a boy and a girl go with the carcass of a doomed relationship?  Boy and girl now ticks off each other in Facebook as “acquaintances”.

Here lies the generation gap that allowed things to sneak by: I have long ago decided that friendship while maybe shallow and superficial, is in fact the most lasting of all relationships that everyone experiences.  To go on deeper, it is the highest form of relationship Jesus wants with us.

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servants does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)

I thought about this about a decade and a half ago in “A Theology of Friendship” and saw that it is one thing to be a “sinner saved by grace” and another to be considered a child of God; but on the scale of things nothing beats being a friend of Jesus.  Anglican writer and scholar, J. I. Packer, in his book Knowing God said that “adoption is…the highest privilege the gospel offers: higher even than justification” but I would go on to say that the even better blessing is being declared God’s friend!

You see, the whole idea of being saved and being adopted works around someone in deep shit and some hero coming to rescue him.  Somehow that hero is in one way or the other “better” than the one who needs saving.  But friendship is entirely a different thing because it puts those involved in a level playing field.   It simply says both parties involved are equal; and Jesus said we are his friends.  We are “equal” with God?  That’s the fun part—in the event of inequality, friendship empowers.  Like the weakest member of a basketball team gets to become as good as the rest of them or the nicest member of a gang becomes as bad as the rest of them…okay the last one may be bit off, but that is the point.  Jesus said that we will do “greater things” (check out John 14:12).

What also gets me thinking about this is what Fr. Laurence Freeman’s (OSB) introduction to the Dalai Lama’s “The Good Heart”.  That book is about the Dalai Lama musing about the Sermon on the Mount!  But more of that later; I am not even past the introduction yet.

“Friendship occupies a central place in Christian thought and tradition.  The Christian ideal of friendship is built upon a long classical Western tradition that did not understand friendship, as we often do today, as a diluted form of intimacy.  Cicero or Saint Augustine would not have understood modern journalist who say that a couple are ‘just friends’ as if the only really interesting relationship is that which progresses ‘further’ than friendship.”

In the early Church, which was still hearing the echoes of Jesus and his apostles, friendship was the highest form of relationship—it was the destination.  In my generation, “just friends” is a shallow starting point to somewhere or something else.  In this generation’s definition, “friend zone” is not going to get you anywhere—it is a road block.

It is bad enough that friendship with Jesus is hardly given attention big time in Evangelical circles; we are mostly about being born again children of God who never grows up or being servants of the Lord who never matures to understand the Master’s business (see John 15:15).

It was bad enough we cannot get our heads around Jesus as THE friend; then we friend zone him.

But wait, is not “friend zone” all about love and courtship (or not) of boys and girls?  How did we end up dealing with faith and relationship with God?  Remember on the grand scale of things, everyone (which includes me and all men in the faith) is the bride of Christ.  Jesus is the groom and the church is his bride: we all stand “feminine” before God.  And on our way to the wedding feast we are called to a deeper and intimate relationship with Jesus.  As far as Jesus and the early church fathers were concerned, that relationship is called “friendship”.  And the way things have devolved, "friendship" is as trivial as it can get.

The modern church is missing something.

The emphasis on Lord and Master has reduced many to servanthood; usually in the context of doing things IN church.  The preoccupation as being children of God leaves many forever immature and never growing up—and in the context of the modern church, are made to feel good and entertained with a cool band and a “worship” team.

Sadly that is as far as many goes: there is a roadblock on where else Jesus can be part of our lives.


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