You really don’t realize what your thoughts about God are until you have nothing left but the conviction expressed in the book of the prophet Jeremiah: My Father, my friend from my youth (Jeremiah 3:4).
God’s friendship has it’s supreme expression in the coexistence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Before being told, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8) and “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (Hebrews 1:9), the Son was called “God’s friend” by the Father (Isaiah 42:19). The almighty and omniscient God, the great and fearful God, is my Friend’s Friend.
Even before speaking to us about salvation and the Saviour, about Christianity and Christians, the Lord called us His “friends”: “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” (John 15:15). “The Father Himself loves you!” (John 16:27), Jesus said, and He came among us, “for God so loved the world” (John 3:16). Jesus is the faithful reflection of the Father’s friendship, because “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), therefore “who saw My friendship, saw the Father’s friendship”. Along with the concept of “eternity,” God has planted the concept of friendship in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). But if “man is a wolf to man”, how can this kind of friendship become a reality? The answer is as simple as it is uplifting.
The law of the birth of divine friendship in our hearts is the same as the law of the birth of love. Just as “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), we are His friends and we are friends with each other because He was our Friend first.
Children are not born loving or friendly, they are born feral and scared of the unknown. However, when they realize that they are loved, love and friendship for those who love them is born in them, and because “there is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18), fear disappears from the children’s souls.
True friendship, friendship in the image of God’s friendship, is not a simple form of symbiosis. It is not manifested only by opening one’s door or one’s bank account, but by that supernatural opening of one’s heart. It was not because Lazarus and his sisters were members of Jesus’ church or because they had much to offer that Jesus felt at home with them, but because He was their Friend and they were His friends. The test of friendship with God is simple. Jesus never stood at Lazarus’ door knocking. He was always readily received at Lazarus’ home. The sign of our friendship with God lies in the fact that we have become friendly beings.
A lonely person is not one who has no friends, but one who is not a friend. It is not the lack of friends, but the lack of a spirit of friendship that is the drought that turns the garden of the heart into “a desert land […], a barren and howling waste” (Deuteronomy 32:10). As it is in marriage, where you first ask yourself if you are the right person (like in the parable of the Samaritan, where instead of asking who your neighbour is, you ask yourself if you are really a neighbour to the other), so it is in friendship: you do not ask if the people around you are friendly, but if you are really that friend that your neighbour is painfully lacking.
The Lord’s friendship with us does not change depending on our friendship with Him. He is our Constant Friend, “yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). His friendship breeds the same kind of friendship in us and among us. The unfriendliness of others will never make us less friendly, and the betrayal of others will not make us traitors. Only then will we be able to fully follow in the footsteps of the One who said, “Do what you came for, friend” (Matthew 26:50).
This friendship is not a windowless prison and not a form of possession, but a wide open door.
God’s friendship is not and was never meant to be a surrogate for our friendships with people. I would paraphrase the text in 1 John 4:20: How can you say that you are friends with God, whom you do not see, when you are not friends with your wife, husband, children, and all those around you, whom you do see? Jesus Christ, the Friend of God and our Friend, tells us to make friends (Luke 16:9). This means that before we make and have friends, we need to be really good friends ourselves. Not even God can give what He does not have, much less us. The Bible urges us to “follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1) and, relationally, this applies primarily to the idea of friendship.
The proverb “Tell me who your friends are, so I can tell you who you are” has a flip side: “Tell me who you are not friends with so I can tell you who you are not.”
Jesus said of John the Baptist, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). Now, if we could ask John the Baptist what it means to be “the greatest one born of a woman”, he might answer us by using the words that he used during his lifetime: to be “the bridegroom’s friend” (John 3:29).
I recently listened to an interview with Jeff Bezos. To the question, “What do you want people to say about you once you’re gone?” he replied, “I would like them to say that I have been the most honest person on earth.” (In my mind told him that that seat is already taken!). What would you like people to say about you at the end of your life? Personally, I think that there is no greater grace than to be considered the friend of the Blessed One, and for Him to receive your friendship (Isaiah 41:8; James 2:2).