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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Friend of God

'Jesus is on Facebook' photo (c) 2010, Loren Sztajer - license:
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!

I am a friend of God! He calls me friend!
Back several years ago when my wife and I were in the worship choir at church, this song was the new thing, and we sang it quite frequently. It's a joyful, upbeat song; it's a fun one to sing. We sang it this past weekend at a marriage conference I went to with my wife, and it brought back some fun memories of those days. I remember we used to joke that the actual lyric is "...He calls me Fred" ...but we never sang it that way in church (not intentionally, at least!)

I also remember once our worship leader saying that she had actually received flak for the lyric. "Friend," the objection goes, is apparently too familiar of a term to use for God. When I heard her say that I immediately recognized that as a ridiculous objection which stems from a lack of actual knowledge of what the Bible says. What? That was what you were thinking? Let me show you from the Bible that God actually does call human beings His friend. I can think of an example from each testament right off the top of my head.

Old Testament: Abraham
    But you, Israel, my servant,
        Jacob, whom I have chosen,
        the offspring of Abraham, my friend... -Isaiah 41:8 ESV

Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 2 Chronicles 20:7 ESV
Obviously it was common knowledge back then that God said Abraham was His friend. It should be common knowledge to Christians now, because there is also a New Testament verse that says so (probably the inspiration, along with Psalm 8:4, for the song):
You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. -James 2:22-23 ESV
Bonus Old Testament friend of God's: Moses. "Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent." -Exodus 33:11 ESV

But, weren't Abraham and Moses special cases? Surely not just ANYBODY can be a "friend of God," right? Just those special people. Is that what you think? Well, let me remind you of:

New Testament: Disciples
“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." -John 15:12-15 ESV
In His farewell speech to His disciples, Jesus very specifically told them that they were His friends. Not His "servants," He told them, but His "friends." The disciples were far from special; they were a bunch of miscellaneous fishermen and other laypeople that Jesus had gathered around Him. And it's pretty likely that you believe, as I do, that Jesus' discourse here was intended not only for those present, but for all of us disciples of Christ which were to come (apparently the Apostle John felt the same way, or else he probably wouldn't have recorded it in such length). If you read through the rest of the discourse, you will find things that Christians have applied to themselves throughout the centuries. The gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise of Heaven. Being branches of the True Vine. Hatred of the World for Christians. All of these things we have applied to ourselves through the years; why not the simple friendship of God?

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