“I am a friend of God” – we sing about, it think about, enjoy the thought of it, but is it reality?
I looked up “friendship” online the famous wikipedia says it is, “a relationship of mutual affection between two people… stronger than an acquaintance or association” (Friendship – Wikipedia) – We tend to say that we have many “friends” in our social media world – but then we have “good friends” and “best friends”. Certainly our age and station in life affects our friendships, but it is even said that our health is affected and can affect our friendships. Wiki says that friendships are based on choice and admiration as well as levels of intimacy. They quote U.S. News talking of how “like gaps” affect the quality of the friendship as well. (i.e. one party doesn’t LIKE at the same level as the other)
Britannica, the historic encyclopedia talks about friendship (Friendship | Britannica) as a “state of enduring affection, esteem, intimacy, and trust between two people”. But as I read I found something interesting in “chasing this rabbit”: they go on to point out 5 defining features of friendship 1) it is dyadic, involving a series of interactions 2) it is recognized by both parties so reciprocated 3) it is not obligatory (like a parenting relationship) but those parties choose to form a friendship… thus no formal duties or legal obligations 4) it is egalitarian… that is each has the same amount of power or authority in the relationship 5) it is characterized by companionship which is one of the primary goals
So – am I a friend of God? Can I even BE a friend of God? And perhaps based on those 5 definitions alone, you might immediately respond, “no” or “I can’t be”, or “I’ll never be equal to God…” And Yet… as I stopped and processed it, there IS a level in all of those things where I can be a friend of God. But there is a transition that needs to take place, from servant to friend.
In Genesis 18 is a story that has had my attention in the interaction between God and Abraham. Three men appear to Abraham, 1) to announce the coming of Isaac to this very “mature” couple; and 2) to see to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some ask, “is this the Trinity?” I would say, “no” because John tells us “no one has ever seen God” (John 1:18). Paul says he is in “unapproachable light, whom no one has seen, or can see” (1Tim6:16) So, since no one by the First Century HAD seen the Father, and cannot see the Father, then this is not the Trinity. But then also 2 of the 3 in this story in are in Sodom in Genesis 19 and are “angels” – Yet, ONE of these 3 is referred to as YHWH – The LORD – so this is the one often referred to as “The Angel of the Lord – This is the Second Person of the Trinity, this is Jesus in his eternal, pre-incarnation revelation, before he was born to Mary. Here he speaks with Abraham. He is LORD, He is God, and he has a special relationship with Abraham. He has heard of the evil in Sodom and is going to destroy them, and he asks out loud to the angels, v17 “should I hide this from Abraham?” This is what got my attention more than 40 years ago. I’ve said to myself, since I was 15 years old, “I want to be so close to God that if he moves near me, I will see it, know it, be in on it, unless he hides it from me.”
How? Be near him, Believe Him, Join with Him, Know by experience, Talk to, Recognize, Pay attention and know this is God. Used to be when the phone rang we didn’t have caller ID, and if someone said, “Hi, it’s me”, did you recognize them? Maybe sometime you came into a situation and something had happened, been done, and you wonder, do I know, do I recognize this handiwork, the passion, the action, the purpose of a friend? If so, then do you join right in, do you celebrate, do you go to the known source?
In Isaiah 41:8, I notice something interesting. God calls Israel his “servant”, but Abraham “my friend” . That word in Hebrews, aheb = beloved, dearly, love, friend. That’s ebeb = servant, minister, official . Yes, that’s a good thing to be, but very different from friend. And then as I read the words of God that follow v8 I think God is encouraging Israel to not just be a servant but to be a friend. He says “I have chosen you” v9 (but he’s saying “choose me”) and do not fear for I am with you v10 (saying stay with me) and I will strengthen you / help you – and then v13 I am the Lord who holds your right hand (he’s saying walk with me friend) Oh my how beautiful an invitation.
Then I go over to James 2:22-23 in that famous discussion about Faith that’s active in works, and so made complete. And it says that scripture was fulfilled (from Genesis 15:6) when Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend”! Oh we are going somewhere now. Don’t get on a theological tizzy here, but interestingly, in application, could it be that this often discussed connection between Faith and Works is about Salvation and Friendship? We are certainly, clearly from the preponderance of scripture, saved by Grace through Faith, not of works, of which we can boast (Eph2:8-9,10) yet still FOR works already prepared for us to do. But is it that IN the Works, which manifest our Faith, that we become “Friends”? Stay with me theologian, walk with me believer. James then continues in 2:29 in the same way Rahab… receiving … sending… She joined the work of God in Jericho and in Israel by Faith joining God, and she was saved, and became great grandmother to David, no doubt a friend of God. Certianly there is a whole other discussion we could have here, but Back to Abraham…
I want to be a Friend of God. I believe in Jesus and So, remember that list from Britannica? 1) I had a series of interactions that caused me to hear, and know, and believe, and place my faith in Jesus becoming a Child of God 2) and now he recognized me and I recognize Him. and 3) But there is a choice in the friendship side. He chose me first (praise God) but I also chose him and choose to walk him, not FOR the relationship, but because of the relationship to extend and deepen it. And 4) the idea of an egalitarian relationship is a stretch at first to consider because he IS Lord and IS God, but we still do have a choice to daily walk with him to join him, to love him in action – so 5) the entire “friendship” is out of a desire by Him as well as by me to walk together, to know him, to join him, a Friend of God.
Well… consider these things…