What a Friend!

“She knows how to be a friend,” my wife observed of another. Peggy seemed to have given the matter some thought, so I asked her what she meant. “A friend initiates contact and stays in touch; she is kind, and she listens and shares.” I was convinced (and a little convicted). In fact, can we all agree relationships take effort? They require the most demanding type of work, calling us to give though we prefer to receive, to self-sacrifice instead of self-satisfaction, and to inconvenience when we want comfort.

How many times have we heard—or maybe said—“Christianity is not a religion but a relationship”? In truth, it is both. Insofar as Christianity is the belief in a supernatural power, we would rightly call it a religion. But not merely so, for the true God—He in whom all things exist—is not reduced to an idea, a philosophy or a mere worldview in a cafeteria of many, nor is He content to be distanced from a people who cannot approach him by merit. So, He who made us in His image came to us in our image, that He would take upon Himself the punishment for our sin and redeem us as His people. In other words, He knows how to be a friend.

Which begs the question: Do we? Stated differently, if Christianity is an intimate relationship with the God of all there is, then why don’t we listen more for His voice through His Word and His presence within? How does anything keep us from speaking with Him openly and confidently throughout the day? An exhortation seems in order here: If Christianity is a relationship, then relate! Left to ourselves, however, “Relate!” would be yet another burden to bear in our own power; “Read and pray!” would be just two more commandments in the opposite direction of our natural inclination. So, what is missing?

I think friendship with God lives and breathes in this: “We love because he first loved us.”1 This is not the imposition of an obligatory quid pro quo, i.e., He loved me first, so I am duty-bound to return His love and to pay it forward; rather it is the celebration of a liberating truth—that God knows everything about me, and He still loves me, forgives me, unites me with Himself, lives in me, and makes me forever new. God’s love for us is truth that sets us free2 and sends us forth in the joy of friendship with God. He knows how to be a friend, and in His liberating love, so can we.

Father, how greatly You love us! Draw us near to you, that, knowing Your love, we will live in open, trusting friendship with You. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 1 John 4:19 ESV
2 John 8:31-32

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