A few weeks ago, I was with my mother running errands after church when we stumbled upon a small display in a convenience store that read: "Wear it to share it!" atop a carousel of Christian-themed tshirts. Among them, one which stood out in particular to me boldly declared: "Jesus is my BFF! - John 11:15." I took a picture and posted it to Instagram, vowing to blog about it soon. I have, since then, spent time reflecting on exactly what I want to say. It would be easy to rant here, because the whole genre of Christian-themed tshirts is in and of itself ridiculous to me. It would be easy to poke fun at the complete delusion of it all, thinking that your witness is somehow substantiated by a theologically impoverished tshirt you picked up from a discount retailers. But there's something greater at stake here, something that I think is the undertow of my dislike of the phrasing: the central message of this tshirt is simply that Jesus really isn't enough.
It's a cute thing to say that Jesus is your BFF, but is it a true thing? Are we seeing Jesus honestly?
Certainly, quoting the verse from the Gospels that has Jesus Himself declaring His disciples friends lends a lot of credit to the argument, but what it also does is take Jesus outside of the context of the passage, outside of the context of the Gospels, and outside of the Scriptures altogether.
I am indebted to this wonderful list, compiled by people I do not know nor have theological knowledge of, which details the names of Jesus throughout the Bible, including references made in the Old Testament. Of the names, Priest, King, Lord, God, Mediator are the overwhelming appellations afforded our Saviour. These are the names Scripture knows Him by, this is that byword among the nations that divided and was a stumbling block to all men.
When we say that Jesus is our BFF, have we cheapened our High Priest? Have we neglected our Lord, our God?
I appreciate the intimacy we are to share with this Incarnate Mystery. I delight in the abundance of His Presence in the world. But I hope to not lose Who He Is in the process of who I want Him to be.
What do I tell the world on my tshirt evangelism when I call Jesus my BFF? He is not my Savior, my Priest, my King. He is a reducible, shallow, unholy Other that is somehow just a better version of me. Jesus is just a really good me. Whatever Jesus is, that's what I would be, if I were perfect.
Would I be God if I were perfect?
I think not.
Jesus is Other. This Other by the incarnation honored all flesh and raised the understanding of what it meant to be mortal to the utmost degree. But this did not change the fact that He was and is still God, holy, and not of me, not a better version of me, and not a being among beings.
Is Jesus my BFF?
Today, I'm asking myself this honestly: is this how I see Jesus? Have I seen Jesus as my BFF at the expense of seeing Him as my Priest, my King, my Lord, my God?
"Who do you say I am?"
"Upon this confession I shall build my church."