Friends of God

We do not typically think of any humans as friends of God; nor do we usually liken God to a friend of humans. The relationship of friendship is ordinarily excluded from characterizations of divine-human interactions. The situation is otherwise in some of the biblical writings, particularly in the teaching of Jesus.

The living God offers as an unearned gift a relationship of friendship with humans. Isaiah, for instance, portrays God as calling Abraham His friend (Isa. 41:8; cf. James 2:23). In addition, Jesus likens His Father to our friend who, when asked persistently, gives us what we need (Luke 11:5-10). Jesus thinks of his Father as a Friend eager to rescue us from the powers of darkness, including our idols, and to give us His kingdom (Luke 11:20-22, 12:32). He seeks to bring us into His family as His faithful children who are also His friends. Likewise, Jesus presents himself as inviting others into a friendship with him. He calls his obedient followers his friends, and he promises to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13-15).

Friendship with God is always initiated by God as a free gift, and not by humans. It is by grace, not by human earning. As the writer of 1 John states: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.... We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:10). God's friendship toward us always rests on His forgiveness toward us: He comes in judgment of us, but amazingly, this judgment is merciful love free of condemnation for our rebellion against Him.

The living God stoops low to us in a rescue mission, seeking to save us from our destructive, selfish ways and from the powers of evil. He bends down to reconcile us to Himself. He seeks to befriend us in self-giving love, and Jesus is the focal source of the friendship offered. Jesus is God's friendship made human yet still divine. Jesus thus can bridge the chasm between his Father and us. His friendship is sacrificial: the life and death of Jesus cover any price needed to be paid for our rebellion against God. His friendship is redemptive: it restores us to the relationship with God we were originally intended to enjoy. His friendship is life-giving: it gives us what we need to flourish in unselfish love and to avoid bondage to selfishness and death. Indeed, his friendship offers us the very Spirit of God in order to empower us to live as God's children. The urgent issue is just this: will we sincerely receive this friendship in a way that transforms us into children of God who have the self-giving character of Jesus?

Our receiving God's friendship begins with our receiving the gift of His merciful love, His forgiveness, toward us. In receiving His love, we must receive it as needed life-giving power for us, relative to which everything else pales in comparison (see Mark 12:28-31; Philippians 3:7-11). We must receive it, with sincere thanksgiving, as being of unsurpassable, priceless significance; otherwise, God Himself is trivialized by us and is not treated as our rightful Lord. Receiving God's love is active, not passive. It requires that we subject our will to God's, thereby entering into God's transformation of us away from selfishness toward unselfish love. It requires that we share Gethsemane with Jesus in saying to God: Not what I will, but what You will (Mark 14:32-36). It requires that we participate wholeheartedly in God's overhaul of our likes and dislikes, our values and disvalues. Gethsemane is the avenue to receiving God's friendship. We must be transformed by God as we receive His unmatched friendship.

An essential component of Jesus's obedience in Gethsemane is prayer. Jesus prays that his Father's will be done, rather than his own will. Prayer is not only communication that petitions God, but also communication that listens for and to God, with readiness to obey. It requires that we be still and acknowledge that God alone is authoritative Lord of our lives. Silence before God is the means by which we listen for God, listen to God, and leave room in our lives to obey God faithfully. The noise in our lives, much of it self-made, prevents us from hearing God and receiving God's merciful friendship. The world, including its wayward entertainment and education, strives to increase the noise in our lives. God seeks to quiet the noise in order to make room for His Good News of merciful love toward us. Friendship with God, then, requires that we learn to be quietly attentive toward God. The result of such attentiveness will be a spirit sensitive to the call of God on our lives. We will then be in a position to welcome the transforming power of God's Spirit, the Spirit exemplified by the life and death of Jesus. In welcoming such power, we welcome God's gracious friendship. God's friendship disarms idols by making them pointless and repulsive. It dissolves our selfish fear, anger, jealousy, and hiding. God's friendship becomes what satisfies us lastingly, with His lasting peace and joy.


You give me Love
though I take credit
for Your gifts.
You keep on giving
despite my taking.

You give me Joy
when I am hopeless
in the dark.
You are my Light
when I am dark.

You give me Peace
when I fear losing
what's not mine.
You give me Freedom
when I am bound.

You give me Life
though I die trying
to rob You.
As my Friend
You die to dying,
so I can live.