Who’s your friend? That’s a pretty easy question to answer. Just as you read that, you probably thought of one, two, three names really quickly off the top of your head. It’s an easy question.
Back when I went to Evangel, we used to play this game called, “Who’s Your Friend,” when we had eaten an apple. Once one of my buddies finished his apple (I can use the masculine here and not worry about gender neutrality because for some reason, in college, no girls wanted to hang out with my crew) he would say, “Apple Core!” To which one of us would reply “Baltimore,” not because we liked the city, but just because it rhymed with apple core. He would then respond with, “Who’s your friend?” Then one of us would say a name of someone we could see, and say that person’s name. Why would we say this person’s name? Because then the one with the apple core would fling said core with all his might at the one just named. All because that person was named as our friend. This story has nothing to do with the rest of what I’m going to write. I just thought you all would enjoy it!
In between what many label a mini-sermon in the book of James, the writer drops this little nugget basically asking, “Who’s your friend?”
4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.
He is basically saying: Are you a friend of the world, or are you a friend of God?
James isn’t writing about trees and cities here, but rather a system of unhindered desires and arrogance. The “want to be a” phrase indicates that this a choice that one is making. It’s not a passive thing, but an active decision he or she has decided to make. ii. Wanting to be a friend has another consequence. “Makes himself” is too weak for the Greek verb kathistemi, which found elsewhere in the New Testament takes on more of an official tone. It may better be translated then, “to establish oneself as an enemy of God.”
What really puts this verse into perspective for us today is how the original readers would have understood the term “friend.” We use it today pretty haphazardly in our Facebook generation, and sometimes we even use the term to throw an apple core at someone. Back when James wrote this, though, it meant something far stronger. It can be defined as being of the “same soul.” To be of one soul with another meant to share the same attitudes, values and worldview. A friend in this context sees everything the same way as the other. If one is a friend of God, there is oneness with Him. The opposite, therefore, is also true.
The goal for every Christ-follower is to become more like Him. We need to be of “one soul” with Him. We end up being more and more like Him when this happens. So we can’t be friends with the world, and become like Christ at the same time.
So, who’s your friend?