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What does it mean to be friends with God? What does it mean to have a personal relationship with God? Contrary to popular opinion, it is not a matter of using our mind to invent an imaginary friend. Friendships just don’t work like this, and this suggestion that they do is really an interesting attempt on the part of the skeptic to continue to deny the obvious: evangelicals have a real friendship with God.
Friendship, real friendship, relates to persons, actual persons and the exchanges that exist between those persons. Friendship exists in the exchanges that people make with one another. For example, genuine friends have a common appreciation or fondness for each other, common interests and values, mutual hobbies or shared activities, and conversation. A sharing of appreciation and affection, commonly held interests and values, shared activities, and dialogue can only exist between two real people as they exchange and share those items between themselves. If an individual should imagine a person and then pretend to himself that the imagined person has actual feelings of appreciation for him and talks to him when there is no exchange between the inventor and his imaginary friend then this person would be insane.
Why? Because the relationship happens entirely in his head. No actual transfer is occurring. Nothing is shared or exchanged. For him (or us) to think otherwise is lunacy. This is not something that we should respect but something we should be very worried about. What other insane machinations are taking place inside this guy’s head?
Now with Christians the suggestion has been made that we are imagining God in our minds. But then, in the same sentence, we are complimented for our faith?!? This assertion betrays any common sense understanding of the words ‘personal relationship’ or ‘faith.’ To have a personal relationship with God requires a personal exchange, and to exercise faith in that relationship is also a personal exchange. To have faith is to place your confidence or hope in something.
For example, to have faith in a chair is to suggest that you have confidence that when you sit in that chair it will bear your weight and not collapse like match-sticks. A real exchange then occurs when you transfer your weight from your own two feet into the cradle of the chair seat. If the chair holds you, then the faith you placed into that chair is rewarded. If the chair does not hold you, then you are guilty of poorly assessing the chair and were mistaken for giving your faith over to it. But how can Christians be commended for having trust in something that doesn’t exist? Who in their right mind would celebrate a man who told you repeatedly about his favorite chair when everyone knew perfectly well that there was no such chair? How can Christians be applauded for trusting in something that we imagine in the depths of our minds?
Any serious look at what it means to have a personal relationship with God has to start with acknowledging that there is a real exchange taking place between two distinct individuals in the relationship. There are several ways that a Christian has a real exchange with God. I’ve mentioned these before, but I’ll mention them again here.
Now this post has already run too long. But I’ll begin elaborating on item number one tomorrow: genuine friendship will require a legitimate exchange of love.