Saturday, March 19, 2011

relationship: Friend/friend

Description of the relationship

When we speak of friends in an earthly sense, we can be talking about a vast range in the depth of those relationships. A friend can be used to refer to our close, intimate relationships (like our spouse or best friend) and can also be used to refer to mere acquaintances or people we barely know. In the technology age, it's even possible to be Facebook or blog friends with someone you have never met.

When the Bible speaks about us being friends with God, it is meaning the close, intimate relationship. In Proverbs 18:24b Solomon says, "but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." No acquaintance sticks closer than a brother. No, only a close, intimate friend does.

In fact, when Jesus calls us (we'll get into who us is in a moment) friends in John 15:14, He does it while talking about His amazing love for us. I think it would serve us well to look at this passage together in the context of his discussion on love. John 15:12-17 (ESV):

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love on another."

A couple of things jump out to me in this passage:

1. The depth - As we mentioned, this is a deep friendship. In fact, Jesus says that the greatest love a person could show is laying down one's own life for a friend. As we've mentioned in previous discussions, Jesus died on the cross for us. Jesus laid down His life for us. This means that Jesus has shown us more love than any other friend, and, thus, is our closest friend.

2. Our standing - Jesus says that He no longer thinks of us as servants because we are His friends. Jesus says that a servant is not made known what the master is doing, but that He has revealed what the Master (God) is doing.

3. The initiation - Jesus tells us that we didn't choose Him, but He chose us. I think that this is an incredibly special fact. I mean, think about it. Many of us have gone out of our way to try to get someone to like us because we perceived them as cool or whatever. We almost take pride in the fact that someone wants to be our friend and approaches us instead of the other way around. Well, this is exactly what Jesus did to us. He chose us. He wanted to be our friend before we wanted to be His. I find this incredible.

Definition of the roles

Friend: The role for this is unique when compared with the other relationships we have covered. With all the others, there are different roles, but in friendship there are simply two friends. We have the same role in this relationship in terms of being a friend. All that said, even in our friendship Jesus is superior to us.

Let's look at how we become friends with God. There are two Scripture references that jump out to me with regard to this:

First, we can see what Jesus said in the passage we already read. In John 15:14 Jesus says, "You are my friends if you do what I command you." So, we do see that there is a condition here. We must do the command of the Lord if we are to be His friend. Notice that it's not that He must do what we command to be our friend. The condition is only one-sided. We must do His will. We must be obedient to Him.

Second, we can see in James 2:23 that Abraham believed God (which was counted to him as righteousness) and he was called a friend of God. It would seem from this passage that Abraham was considered a friend of God as a result of his belief in Him.

I think these two passages actually speak to the same idea. It is out of our faith in God that we obey him and are called His friends.

Discussion of the reality

This relationship seems pretty clear cut. I mean, if we're Christians then we are friends of God. If we're not Christians then we're not friends of God. So, where can/does this relationship go wrong? I would like to look at two areas that people may struggle in:

1. Being the dominant friend - We can make this same mistake in earthly friendships. We always feel the need to talk, but never listen. We want to lay all of our problems on our friends, but never want to bear any of theirs. This is an incredibly selfish, ego-centric view of friendship. There are many verses in Proverbs that warn us against doing all the talking. We are supposed to talk with friends, not at them. Our conversations with friends should be dialogues and not monologues.

The same is true for our friendship with God! God desires to speak to us and not only have us speak to Him. God wants to have an intimate friendship with us. One problem with rushing our devotional and prayer time is that we only ensure that we tell God what we want to say and typical give God no time to talk back. As I mentioned in a previous discussion, we need to know God's voice if we are ever going to hear what He has to say to us.

2. Being the insecure friend - We are the timid friend. We don't feel good enough to be friends with God. We don't think we deserve it. Well, guess what: both of these statements are true...we aren't good enough and we don't deserve it. That said, God still chose us as His friends in His grace and mercy. It's not about what we deserve, it's about what He has freely offered us.

We can't play the role of the awkward junior higher when it comes to friendships. If we are Christians, then we are friends with God. Instead of spending all of our time with God telling Him how much we don't deserve His friendship, we need to accept that He's offered it and just be friends. A friendship that only discusses the state of the friendship is not much of a friendship at all. Just be His friend, and know that He wants to be yours.

Israel Houghton and Michael Gungor

Who am I that you are mindful of me
That you hear me, when I call
Is it true that you are thinking of me
How you love me, it's amazing (What am I Lord)

I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend

God Almighty
Lord of Glory
You have called me friend

2003 Integrity's Praise! Music Vertical Worship Songs

in His strength. for His glory.