What do we need to know or do to be the friend of God? How should we behave? What customs should we keep? What do we give and put into a friendship with the supreme Creator of man and all that we can see and know in the universe around us? And how wonderful would it be to have God Himself say that you are “The Friend of God?”
Surprisingly it is not that hard a thing to be the friend of God. God created man to be a social being and to want to have friends and be a friend. God is also a God of relationships. He desires to be in relationship with us, and it is His hope and desire that man will choose to be in a relationship with Him.
And friendship is a very special form of relationship, as we will see in this section of scripture. There are many ways we can be in a relationship with God: servant, disciple, follower, convert and even His enemies are in a relationship with Him…but not a good one and not one that will have a positive outcome for them! But to be a friend of God is a wonderful and powerful relationship as we will see.
The Friend of God
Let’s think about friendship first. A friend is someone who will help you in a time of need and who you will go to in their need. A friend is a confidant whom you can tell your deepest held secrets, fears, hopes, desires, troubles and reasons for joy. You can tell a really good friend anything and you don’t and won’t hold back.
Why? Because you trust your friend. You trust then with your secrets and even your life. You trust them not to divulge what you tell them or to gossip about you. You trust them to be there for you and in all these things they too trust you to reciprocate. A friend is a great thing and we see that the bond of friendship can be very strong binding two people together like glue.
One of the greatest friendships in the Bible was the friendship between David and Jonathon, the son of King Saul. Even when his father was seeking David to take his life, Jonathon stayed true to David because he was his friend, and he warned him to save his life. He was truly like the friend described in Proverbs 18:24,
There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
But to be called the friend of God would be even greater than this friendship. For all of these attributes of friendship are what God offers to those he calls His friends. Look at what Jesus says to the disciples when he tells them that they are His friends.
13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 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.
First we see that Jesus was prepared to lay down His life for His friends. And that is the ultimate test of any friendship. Jonathon defied his father the King for the sake of his friendship with David, which could have cost him dearly. But for the sake of his friendship he was prepared to suffer the ire and the wrath of King Saul if it came to that.
We see also that Jesus said of the disciples that He had shown them everything. He had exposed all that was happening and all that He was doing to them, just as a friend will take a person into their confidence, hiding nothing.
And Jesus did this with them because He trusted them. He trusted them enough that He would send them forth after His death to spread the Gospel of salvation to the entire world. He trusted them with His plans to bring the hope of righteousness to every person on the planet. And they did as they were commanded. And here we are two thousand years later still learning from these friends of Jesus how we too can become His friends also.
This is My Commandment
I mentioned earlier that it is not hard to be a friend of God. Verse 14 in this section makes it quite simple for us where He says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
Now some people would see those words and say that this is not friendship, it’s slavery or at least servitude. And that is a point that could be argued. However, the fact that Jesus shows us everything we need to know about His plan, revealing the way of salvation and guiding us to His righteousness through the working of the Holy Spirit under the New Covenant is proof that we are not mere servants or slaves. The servant and the slave are not privy to such knowledge. Only a friend has such access.
And besides, let’s look at what the commandment is that He is asking of us. He said in the first verse of this section as well as the last verse the following.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
17 This I command you, to love one another.
The command of Jesus that He asks of us to be His friends is simply to love one another. And as John wrote in one of his letters, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning.” (1 John 2:7)
The commandment of love is an old commandment. The greatest of the laws of Moses, as Jesus stated in Matthew 22:37-40 were the two laws that spoke of love, first love for God and second, the love of our fellow man.
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the great and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
The commandment of Jesus is that we love one another, and as we see this has ALWAYS been the commandment, even back into the old law. All of the laws were built on the foundation of love and through the laws of Moses God was setting a standard in wisdom and truth as to what the love of God looked like.
But you cannot enforce love under law. You can show what it is and then hope the person will choose to do it. And that is why Christ appeared to take away sin, to take away the law so that we would live by love rather than be bound by law. And through living a life based upon love, we find the truth that is written in 1 John 5:2-3,
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
And the commandment to love is NOT burdensome. How can it be a burden to love when it comes from the heart? It was a burden to keep the myriad of laws, but to live a life in the love of God, where a person will naturally keep God’s laws is not a burden at all. And when we do this we also keep the additional commandment of God the Father as seen here in 1 John 3:21-23.
21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
The commandment of the Father is to have faith and believe in the Son. And the commandment of the Son is to love one another and to love God. And that’s about it! Pretty simple which is why it is not burdensome and also why Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30,
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Lay Down Your Life
The real test of friendship we saw was when Jesus said that He would lay down His life for His friends. And He did so, literally. Jesus dies for us so that we too could live and have access to the Father and be transformed into the image of Christ. No greater gift could anyone give than to give the gift of life by laying down their own life.
And now we are being called to lay down our lives for our friends and for God. That does not mean we have to die for each other, although there have been some who were put to the ultimate test. Instead we are to serve one another and be prepared to give of our life to help them. John writes it like this in 1 John 3:16-18:
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
17 But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.
We lay down our lives by giving our help and aid to one another. When we see someone in need and we offer assistance we are showing the love of God and laying down our life for them. Paul also described this saying to the Corinthians about the way that the Macedonian churches lay down their lives for the benefit of the churches in Judea. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
1 We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedo’nia,
2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part.
3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will,
4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints–
5 and this, not as we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
Note that they first gave themselves to the Lord and then gave of their goods out of extreme poverty and affliction to come to the aid of the other churches. Truly they did as commanded by the Lord to show the love of God in a physical way through their zeal for the Lord and their giving to aid those in need.
This is how they lay down their life for God. It is also how we are called to lay down our lives for God too. When we help those around us who are in need of assistance, we too are living in the love of Christ as He commanded and following in the ways of love. Then we too shall be called the friend of God as we do what He commanded.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Sanja Gjenero)