“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” James 4:4
Ever been caught in the middle of a fight? When I was a kid in junior high school, two of my buddies had a disagreement and planned to prove their dominant masculinity in a fight at the park after school. “Red” was a friend from my youth group at church, and Larry was a buddy from my neighborhood. As we walked to the park after school that day, all of Red’s friends were following him, while all of Larry’s friends clustered around him. I didn’t know what to do. Both of them were my friends. So I decided to do the diplomatic thing. First, I walked for a bit with Larry, and then I slipped over to Red’s side of the street. I’ll never forget what Red said to me. “Joe, you’re either my friend or Larry’s friend. You can’t have it both ways. Make up your mind.”
I knew right away that what he said had a ring of truth to it. Not unlike Red’s remark to me, the apostle James jabs us with a stinging warning: “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
I doubt that any of us would want to be on the wrong side of that equation. Yet it’s so easy to sidle up to the ways of the world. How can we know whose side we’re really on? Thankfully, Paul gives us a clue. In Galatians 5:19-21, just before he gives the famous list of the fruits of the Spirit, he lists several examples of how friendship with the world shows up in our actions: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
If you find yourself in that list, you’re making a huge statement about whose side you’re on. And here’s a scary thought—not only are you a friend of the world, but an enemy of God when your actions stand in sharp contrast to His will and His ways. Thankfully, Paul doesn’t leave us in enemy territory. He goes on to list some examples of what friendship with God looks like: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Jesus Himself made the grounds for friendship with Him clear when He said to His disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). Doing His will is what proves our friendship with Him, and it is what empowers us to bear much fruit to His glory!
So, whose side are you on? Friendship with Jesus is proven when we walk with Him in His will and His ways, which means that friendship with Jesus is a choice—a choice between Him and the ways of this fallen world.
Take it from me, James, Paul, and my friend Red, you can’t have it both ways. So be sure that you’re walking in Jesus’ crowd!
- Read carefully through the lists in Galatians 5:19-23. Which list best describes you? Would the people who know you agree with your answer?
- What do you think James meant when he used the phrase “adulterous people”? How does it affect you to think of your relationship with God and the world in terms of a love relationship?
- None of us wants to be described as an “enemy of God.” What do we need to do to prevent that from happening?
- Remember, God’s most passionate desire for your life is that you will bear fruit. Do you have that passion in common with Him?
- Think of a practical way that you can be a friend of God today. (Hint: consult the list in Galatians 5:22-23.)