Human beings long for friendship. Some people can live without friendship relationships. Instead of friends they have a bevy of human relations in business, neighborhoods, organizations, and family. But while having many “friends” they do not need those relationships to be of the kind that fills some kind of void or meets some kind of longing or need.
Those people are, I think, rare and if you are like that there is no condemnation here. We are all wired differently, and it is no sin to not need “friendship relationships” but rather “friendly relations”. There is, I think, a difference.
However, the vast majority of us long for deeper friendships; relationships that might be described as a BFF relationships or kindred spirit relationships. This often is what drives young people to a specific iteration of themselves whether that be athletic, dramatic, scientific, or some form of self-realized sexuality. Most everyone longs for acceptance and identification among some “friendship” context and often those things provide that. Because of that longing, we are always tempted to find that acceptance, identification, and sense of “belonging” wherever we can find it.
But this longing can be a death knell for Christians. That is because many times professing Christians find friendship with the world as that which fills that void. The “world” is that system of thought, morals, and lifestyles that are contrary to biblical Christianity. The “world” also describes the great preponderance of people; unsaved people that inhabit that system. For instance, when John says, “For God so loved the world…” (Jn. 3:16), he is not saying that God loved the world “system” but he did mean to say (I believe, even though debatable among some theological perspectives ) that he loved the “people” of the world that inhabit that system.
But the Bible is clear that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). I think this pertains to the “world system” and the denizens of that system. What this means is twofold; not only can we not be in a friendship relationship with a “world system” of philosophical and moral corruption, it also means we cannot be in a friendship relationship (as defined above) with worldlings. Now, I think we can have “friendly relations” with worldlings but not the deeper “friendship relationships” with them. For instance, Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, 25 lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” 2 Cor. 6:14 adjures us, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” This is speaking of being linked with unbelievers in things such as marriage, business partnerships, ministry initiatives, and (I would argue) friendship relationships (as opposed to friendly relations). I hope I have “friendly relations” with all people. But I reserve my “friendship relationships” to believers.
Why is this important. Well, there are many reasons but one that specifically comes to mind is found in Lamentations 1:1-2: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies.”
The book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s “lament” over the holy city Jerusalem, since it’s destruction by Babylon. Once “the joy of the whole earth” she now sits desolated, destroyed, and…friendless. She had many “lovers” and “friends” when she gave herself to their idolatry, dissipation, and immorality. But now that she had nothing further to offer “the world”, they abandoned her.
One of the great problems with “friendship with the world” is that they will withdraw their “friendship” as soon as you withdraw approbation for their lifestyles. For those professed believers who have developed “friendship relationships” with the world, see how long that friendliness will endure when you condemn their lifestyle. If you would stand like a prophet of old and condemn their homosexuality, their drunkenness, their transgenderism, their belief in gay marriage, their dishonesty, their co-habitation before marriage, their relativistic morality, etc., you would see how long their “friendship” would last.
This, I think, is a key reason why God tells us not to have friendship relationships with the world; because for those relationships to endure, we must be willing to stifle biblical morality, biblical philosophy, biblical theology, and biblical lifestyles. The world, as we have seen more and more in recent culture, is not tolerant of any view that is not tolerant of their “world system” morals, philosophies, and lifestyles. More than that, not only is lack of toleration of their views required, one must now be actively supportive (woke) of their world system.
Is it any wonder that James says, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God”? Christian flourishing cannot be realized in the context of friendship with the world. While we can have friendly relations with all people, deep friendship relationships are to be relegated to fellow believers. Because if we are to maintain those worldly relationships, it will be at the cost of God’s truth concerning almost everything… certainly of those things that matter most. That is a price far too high to pay… and too many professed believers are far too willing to pay that price. May it cease to be.