"And the LORD said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do (visit Sodom and Gomorrah to see how great is their sin) . . . For I KNOW HIM, that he will command his children and his house after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment'" (Genesis 18:17, 19)
"But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, My friend;" (Isaiah 41:8)
"And the scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Now Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness'; and he was called a friend of God." (James 2:23)
The fact that we desire and enjoy friendships is evidence that God, who made us in His image, wants the same thing. Jesus emphasized to his followers that his relationship with them (and us) was as friends, not as a master to his servants or slaves.
"You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, because the servant does not know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends because I have made known to you all the things that I have heard from My Father." (John 15:14-15)
Attributes of a TRUE friend
What are some of the characteristics of a true, close friend? What must we do if we want such relationships in our lives? True friends will,
Forgive each other
Our Creator constantly proves to us that He is our very best friend in this area.
"For even when we were without strength, at the appointed time Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, although perhaps someone might have the courage even to die for a good man.
"But God commends His own love to us because, when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, therefore, having been justified now by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His own Son, much more then, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Romans 5:6-10)
How much does our Creator want a relationship with his creation? He was willing to pay the highest price possible -- the life of Jesus, His only Son. This awesome sacrifice reconciles us to him and opens the door wide open to a relationship that will last forever.
When we come under the shed blood of our Savior, that which we have done in sin are forgiven and washed away. The apostle Paul tells us, in no uncertain terms, what our relationship is with our Father when we are forgive.
"Consequently, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who are not walking according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit;" (Romans 8:1).
God forgives completely. There are no strings attached to His love and mercy. His forgiveness is so perfect and wonderful that there will come a time when our sins will be totally forgotten - FOREVER.
"'And they shall no more teach each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD;' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' says the LORD. 'For I will forgive their iniquity, and I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.'" (Jeremiah 31:34)
A friend in time of trial and trouble
The book of Proverbs tells us what it means to be a friend regardless of the situation.
"Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of one’s friend by advice from the heart. Your own friend, and your father’s friend, do not forsake them; nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off." (Proverbs 27:9-10)
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (17:17)
"A man who has friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (18:24)
One of the most well-known friendships in all the Bible - King David and Jonathan - was a friendship that endured in spite of the trouble that came their way. They were truly friends who stuck closer together than brothers. Their relationship was such that,
"And it came to pass when he had finished speaking to Saul (his father, who hated David and wanted him dead), the soul of Jonathan was joined with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as he did his own soul." (1Samuel 18:1)
Upon learning of Jonathan's tragic death in the battle of Gilboa, David was inspired to write a touching song dedicated to his friend.
"The beauty of Israel is slain upon your high places! How are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, do not let it be known in the streets of Askelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. Mountains of Gilboa, let not dew or rain be upon you, nor fields of offerings, for there the shield of the mighty has been vilely cast away, the shield of Saul not being anointed with oil.
"From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back and the sword of Saul did not return empty. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided. They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions . . .
"How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan. Very pleasant you have been to me. YOUR LOVE TO ME WAS WONDERFUL, MORE THAN THE LOVE OF WOMEN." (2Samuel 1:19-23, 25-26)
You and I have a friend in God. In time of need He is always there. He senses when things are wrong. He knows when trouble is near.
"'Am I a God Who is near,' says the LORD, 'and not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places so that I shall not see him?' says the LORD. 'Do I not fill the heavens and earth?' says the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:23-24).
I think that most of us can easily identify with this attribute of a best friend. We all need a true confidant -- someone to whom we can come and discuss our innermost problems. This is just the way God is with us. Remember in John 15 where Jesus says he now calls us friends? Read again a piece of this quote.
"No longer do I call you servants, because the servant does not know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends because I have made known to you all the things that I have heard from My Father."
Christ does not consider or call us mere servants for a reason. Servants are not privy to what his master is thinking and doing. Friends, however, know this from each other. ALL THINGS that Jesus hears from the Father He CONFIDES IN US! This speaks volumes concerning the kind of profound relationship that the Father and Son desire to have with us!
When we pray do we pour out our hearts to the Father and tell him things no one else knows? On the other hand, do we coldly recite a prayer that tells God next to nothing but demands he grants certain promises to you as if he needed to fulfill a contract agreement? Is our relationship with our Maker based on love and respect or Biblical facts and figures? The Bible admonishes us to draw close to him.
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8)
The vast majority of believers never fully enter into the Father's house. We may hear the invitation; we may open the door and stand there looking in, but we are so often either unable or unwilling to come all the way in and close the door behind us. True closeness and intimacy are things we tend to shy away from.
We must allow the Father and Son to come into the home that is our inner life -- to eat with us, commune with us, relax with us, and walk with us. God has made that a certainty through the death of Christ. Our Father deeply desires that we know Him even as we are known by Him -- but the key word in this entire discussion is DESIRE! We must want this kind of relationship and seek it.
Best friends just naturally enjoy and prefer being with each other. This is what Paul was discussing when he wrote to the Romans.
"Let love be without hypocrisy, abhorring that which is evil and cleaving to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned toward one another in brotherly love. Let each esteem the other more highly than himself." (Romans 12:9-10)
Notice once again how Paul put the type of love we are to have in his letter to Philippi.
"Now then, if there be any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any deep inner affections and compassions, Fulfill my joy, that you be of the same mind, having the same love, being joined together in soul, minding the one thing. Let nothing be done through contention or vainglory, but in humility, each esteeming the others above himself." (Philippians 2:1-3).
Who do you truly prefer and desire and esteem the highest in your relationships with others? Christians ought to be good, close friends -- intimate, confiding, forgiving, always there when needed, always in close contact, always desiring one another from the heart.
The extra mile
Going the extra mile is part of being best friends with someone. Among true friends, no request is too demanding, no problem is too frivolous, no matter is too personal. They are always there for each other -- and more than just being there, they are always ready, willing and able to do whatever is necessary to help, to serve, to lighten the burden or to ease the pain. God is the same with us. He goes all the way with his friends. When we hurt, He feels the pain intensely. In one place, the prophet Isaiah was inspired to write,
"I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, and the great good to the house of Israel by which He bestowed on them according to His mercies, and according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses, For He said, 'Surely they are My people, children that will not lie.' So He was their Savior.
"In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His compassion He redeemed them; and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old." (Isaiah 63:7-9).
When sinful, backsliding ancient Israel got themselves in trouble, it was the Father in heaven who not only cared and was moved with compassion toward them; but suffered right along with them. In all their affliction, He too was afflicted!! When they hurt, He hurt too. The apostle Paul, in describing Christ and how he knows our temptations, said:
"Having therefore a great High Priest, Who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, we should hold fast the confession of our faith. For we do not have a high priest who cannot empathize with our weaknesses, but one Who was tempted in all things according to the likeness of our own temptations; yet He was without sin. Therefore, we should come with boldness to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Our Father and His Holy Son have always related to and identified with and suffered with and for every single one of us. Our Savior did not just go the mere extra mile - he ultimately gave up everything -- his divinity, his power, his eternal life in heaven, etc. In short, he went ALL THE WAY for you and me!
"This is My commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13).
And going all the way, even to laying down his own life, was precisely what Jesus Christ did for you and me. He was and is the ULTIMATE BEST FRIEND.
In closing, God and Jesus want us to have a close personal friendship with them and to love them as they love us. If we desire to have influence on our Father, if we wish to pray effectively, if we want to reach our height of spiritual maturity and love, then it behooves us to draw close to our Maker. King David of Israel expressed this kind of link in a well-known Psalm.
"The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23)