[Friendship Gone Wrong] No Safe Zones
THE FIRST LIE
Since the serpent first opened his mouth in the garden, he’s been trying to convince us that God is not enough for us: “You’re missing out. God’s holding out on you.” (Gen 3:1-6) And since then, the temptation to look to God’s creation instead of God Himself for satisfaction is a common, daily struggle, manifesting in myriads of ways. God speaks to this when He addresses the Israelites in Jeremiah 2:12-13:
“Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Anything we look to for satisfaction other than God is an idol. A leaky, broken cistern. This is a shocking and grievous thing to God that we would forsake Him for something lesser.
The subtlest forms of idolatry happen when we put good things above God. Marriage is a good thing. But when we need it more than God, it is an idol. Children are good things, but when we need them more than God, they are idols. Friends are good things, but when we need them more than God, they are idols.
ALL WE NEED IS GOD
Please hear me, God created us for community. We desperately need healthy, intimate, godly friends. Truly it is not good for man to be alone. (Gen 2:18) But when any good and even necessary thing is elevated above God or even at the same level as Him, this is idolatry:
“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” Deut 8:3
Of course, we need food. But not more than God. God created us to need food and water to point us to Him, the Bread of Life and the Fountain of Living Waters. (John 6:35, Jer 2:13)
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” John 5:39-40
We desperately need the Word of God; it is the primary way God reveals Himself. But we do not need the Bible more than God Himself. God gave us His written word, The Bible, to point to Him: The Word Made Flesh. (John 1:14)
"It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." Psalm 118:8
" Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. How blessed is he who's help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God." Psalm 146:3, 5
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26
Yes, we need the community of other people, but never more than God Himself. God created us to be in community to point us to Him: The Communal Three-In-One Trinity.
Idolatry is allowing anything, even good and necessary things, to become more important to us than God Himself. So when people, even good Christian friends, become more important to us than God, there begins the slippery slope into idolatry and its fallout.
As we discuss the dangers and contributing factors of idolatry in friendships, I hope you will be prayerful and honestly ask God to reveal any friends that you put more hope in than God Himself.
Idolatry is misplaced worship, and it is nothing new. In fact, Paul traces all sin back to misplaced worship in Romans 1. Here are some statements about man’s sinfulness found in the first chapter of Romans:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. (1:21)
They exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man. (1:23)
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. (1:25-26)
The root of all sin is taking God out of His rightful place, replacing His glory with the glory of a created thing, and worshiping that creature. Glory literally means "weight." To glorify something is to give it weight and importance. So replacing God's glory with the glory of a created thing means giving more weight and importance to that thing than to God. When we give people (created things) more weight and importance than God, we are worshiping the creature. The results of creature-worship in Romans 1 aren’t pretty:
They became futile in their speculations; their foolish heart was darkened. (1:21)
Professing to be wise, they became fools. (1:22)
God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. (1:24)
God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another…. (1:26-27)
When we give more glory to a person than to God Himself, we invite “degrading passions, lusts of the heart, impurity, foolishness, and depraved mind” into our lives. In other words, creature-worship invites perversion into our lives. Perversion is simply the distortion of something from its original intended purpose. Let’s look at how this plays out in a friendship.
Creature-worship enters a friendship when we give more weight and value to a friend than to God. Over time, this can produce a lot of neediness: needing to be with your friend to be ok, needing to talk to her to feel at peace, needing her presence more than God’s presence.
Long-term friend-worship can lead to addictive dependencies, deep-rooted attachments to friends, debilitating despair when something interferes in the friendship (friend moves away or gets a boyfriend), and too much physical affection. These are all perversions of God's original intended purpose for friendship and community.
Most Christians assume friendship could never be sinful, especially same-gender friendships. This is the reason some walk into idolatry blindly: they have a false sense of security.
Consider this example: Two soldiers are about to cross a minefield. One is told, “Be careful! There are land mines around here, so watch your step!” The other is told, “This is a safe zone, no danger here!” Which soldier is in more danger? The second one of course. By creating a false sense of security where there is potential danger, this soldier might walk blindly into a mine.
On this earth, we are war with Satan, sin and our flesh, and sin can creep into any area of our lives. So when friendships are treated as “safe zones,” they actually become more dangerous. It is this very reason that some of my friends fell into the bondage of sin before it was even recognizable to them.
Even if we see the potential to idolize a guy friend, it’s easy to conclude that girl friends are truly safe-zones or immune to sin. But idolatry is no respecter of gender. Anything that takes God’s place in your heart is an idol, even your closest girl friend. A best friend can become a god, a functional savior who rescues you from all the hardships of life, and very few will call it sin. This is why idolatry in friendship is dangerously deceptive: it has become culturally acceptable to need your friend more than you need God.
There is only one safe zone: God Himself is our only refuge.
In Part 3 we'll discuss what idolatry looks like in friendship, what symptoms it produces, and things that make us susceptible to it.