CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
How does obeying God make us His friend?
By Lesley Mitchell
Sometimes the English language does not do justice when it comes to describing God and our relationship with Him. These days, "friends" are more like casual acquaintances. Young people measure their popularity by how many "friends" they have on Facebook, or how many people at school seek them out. Friends come and go, and more often than not, turn out to be "fair weather" friends — they are all over you like a rash while things go their way, but the minute the going gets tough, they get going. Ask a friend to help you out in a difficult situation and see how they respond.
Friendship with God is in an entirely different league and it is not based on "equality" or mutual admiration. That's because God's ways are higher than our ways just as His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). Friendship with God is based on a correct understanding of who and what God is. We get to know about God's character and His attributes by learning about Him (from the Bible), and the more we get to know Him, the more we stand in awe of the fact that God invites us to enter into relationship with Him.
If you asked a friend to do something for you, and they refused, for no good reason, wouldn't that make you reconsider your relationship with them? So when God asks us to obey His commands, do we comply willingly, knowing that God only has our best interests at heart, or do we think it is unreasonable for God to make any demands of us? After all, if we want to be God's friend, then we should want to please Him. How long would your friends stick around you if you did all the taking while they did all the giving? Friendship is a two-way street, and if we value our friends then we show them respect and we go out of our way to help them if we possibly can. How much more so should we then respect the most powerful being in the universe when He invites us to be His friend? Is it too much to ask us to respect God by doing as He asks? What price friendship?
With God, the situation is somewhat different to human friendships, because God does not need our friendship. But He does invite us to be friends with Him, and to enter into relationship with Him. The success of that relationship depends on how we respond to God. Making friends with God is unlike human friendships. For one thing, friendship with this world puts us at enmity with God: "Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4). In this sense, "friend" can mean the opposite of "enemy" e.g., "Halt! Who goes there? Friend or foe?" We can't serve two masters and so we have to choose whom we will serve. That's an important choice and it will affect our eternal destination.
For another thing, friendship with God is unlike human friendship because God rightly demands our all, not just a bit of us. God expects our loyalty, through good times and bad. God isn't interested in fickle, fashionable or trendy "stuff" that preoccupies worldly people. God loves us so much He sent His one, His only Son, to lay down His life for us so that we might be rescued from our sins (John 3:16). That sort of love demands our respect, our gratitude and our eternal devotion. When God invites us to be His friend, it is not done lightly. It's serious, and it's for keeps.
Abraham was described as God's friend because Abraham believed in God, to the extent of obeying God even though He did not always understand why God commanded him to do certain things. But even before Abraham's obedience was put to the test, God had chosen Abraham "so that He will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him" (Genesis 18:19). Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God's friend" (James 2:23). Through Abraham, all the nations of the earth have been blessed because our Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus, came from Abraham's descendants.
Jesus said: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down His life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name. This is my command: Love each other" (John 15:12-17). We know that Jesus' commands are not burdensome (Matthew 11:30). Also, Jesus' words show how we are not obliged to obey His commands because we are servants, but we obey because we have been elevated into a place of friendship. We have been chosen by God to be adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5).
Here Jesus is telling us that if we want to be His friend, then we must do as He commands. And what does He command us to do? Why, to love one another! Here Jesus is speaking of agape love which is the love He demonstrated for us by laying down His life so that we might be saved. Agape love is the most principled and purest form of love that exists. It is the love that God demonstrates towards us, His creation. "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
The Greek word translated as "friend" is philos and in John 15:14 and James 2:23 it means "loved, dear or devoted." In Luke 14:10 "friend" is used as a courteous appellation. "Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4). In this sense, "friend" can also mean the opposite of "enemy" e.g., "Halt! Who goes there — friend or foe?"
The Bible speaks of two types of love: phileo and agape. Both are Greek terms and appear at different points throughout Scripture. The Greek language also had terms for two other types of love, eros and storge, which do not expressly appear in the Bible. The Greek word philos, translated as "friend" comes from the Greek word philia, which refers to brotherly love and is most often exhibited in a close friendship. Best friends will display this generous and affectionate love for each other as each seeks to make the other happy.
So, do you want to be God's friend, or do you think God is demanding too much? If obedience to God's commands is too high a price to pay for His friendship, then you are at liberty to reject God's offer to adopt you into His family and to become His friend. One thing God will never do is to force anybody to come to Him. But He invites you.
P.S. The word "love" appears some 630 times in the Old and New Testaments. The words related to "obey" only some 170 times. Doesn't that speak volumes about our relationship with God?
Image Credit: jclk8888; "love died thorns crown"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | God-Father | Personal-Relationships
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Published on 4-13-15