Thanks to Tony’s new book, I’m in a The Church in the Power of the Spirit mood today. Here’s an excerpt from Moltmann’s section on Jesus and friendship, which Tony rightly highlighted in his book as one of Moltmann’s more unique takes on Christology:
The titles through which the church defines what Jesus means are usually called his titles of office. Whether Jesus is understood and acknowledged as prophet, priest or king, these titles always express his divine dignity towards men and his saving task on their behalf. The christological titles describe his uniqueness and set up a certain distance between him and the church. In devotion, this distance finds expression in the worship and adoration of Christ, and in obedience to him. In the garb of his titles of honor he appears with divine authority…But the fellowship which Jesus brings men, and the fellowship of people with one another to which he calls, would be described in one-sided terms if another ‘title’ were not added, a title to describe the inner relationship between the divine and the human fellowship: the name of friend.
Friendship is an unpretentious relationship, for ‘friend’ is not an official term, nor a title of honor, nor a function. It is a personal designation. Friendship unites affection with respect. There is no need to bow before a friend. We can look him in the eye. We neither look up to him nor look down on him. In friendship we experience ourselves for what we are, respected and accepted in our own freedom. Through friendship we respect and accept other people as people and as individual personalities. Friendship combines affection with loyalty. One can rely on a friend…Between friends the determining factor is not an ideal, a purpose or a law, but simply promise, loyalty to one another and openness…
The more people begin to live with one another as friends, the more privileges and claims to domination become superfluous. The more people trust one another the less they need to control one another. The positive meaning of a classless society free of domination, without repression and without privileges, lies in friendship. Without the power of friendship and without the goal of a friendly world there is no human hope for the class struggles and struggles for dominance.”
To add “friend” to Jesus’ list of christological offices is truly one of Moltmann’s more brilliant moves. Prophet, priest and king are limited in scope because they are based on function and title alone. I remember feeling this in my bones, like we were trying to recreate a recipe but forgetting that one ingredient that really made the others shine. Something wasn’t tasting quite right, like the batter was going to be delicious but not actually rise in the cooking. And then in this part of CPS, Moltmann came into the kitchen and handed over the missing ingredient. The “gospel” part of who Jesus is, the part that can transform and subvert even the most dominant power structures, the part that makes the whole thing SING, is not only his ability to serve as prophet, priest and king, but precisely his ability to serve as such as our friend.
It’s so good it makes me want to do cartwheels at the very thought. The sovereignty of Jesus, the messianic nature of Jesus, the reason Jesus can be called Redeemer of the whole entire universe, all rests on the fact that he is who he is and he does what he does as our friend.
I honestly do not believe I am overstating my case when I say if you miss that, you are missing out on the whole thing. It’s all flat pancakes and sunken souffles. Friendship, people. Friendship.