Commentary by Rev. Michael VandenBerg
There is a song that we sing quite often in church that speaks to the hearts of those who sing it with gusto. “I am a friend of God” was written by Israel Houghton, asking who am I that you, God, are mindful of me. He answers his question by saying that I am a friend of God. What then is a friend?
When I was growing up I had two friends, closer than brothers, Tom and Steve. We didn’t like all the same things, didn’t have the same interests, didn’t go to the same school, but we would do anything for each other. We were friends, not for what we could get out of the relationship, but “just because.” We could tell each other anything and not walk away from one another. We would even take one another’s punishments if need be. When you get right down to it, we were friends, and the key point was that we were simply ourselves with one another. That is truly a rarity in relationships. Two people that choose to be with one another, not for anything they can do for each other but simply “because”.
The Bible talks about God’s friends in the most loving of terms and meets them face to face, in the moment, not for something he would have them to do for him but simply “because”. It says Abraham was God’s friend, Moses saw God face to face as a friend, Elijah came face to face with God as his friend and then there is Jesus.
Fredrick Buechner in his book “Beyond Words” tells us of Jesus’ idea of friends. “You are my friends,” Jesus said, “if you do what I command you.” The command, is “to love one another,” as he puts it. To be his friend, that is to say, we have to be each other’s friends, conceivably even lay down our lives for each other. It is a high price to pay, and Jesus does not pretend otherwise, but the implication is that it’s worth every cent.
Jesus told his students that they were servants of God, but he then went on to say that no longer will he call them servants, as servant do not know of their master’s plans, but instead, he will call them friends. Friends who open hearts and lives to each other, brings them into full communion with each other. They knew that they were free to be open with each other, share in each other’s lives and do for one another in sheer abandonment, being totally in the moment.
Jesus then extended that invitation built in love, to you and me, as well. He, the embodiment of God on earth, wants to be your friend, meet you face to face, talk about everything and nothing at all, share your excitement and your tears, walk with you wherever life leads you.
Are you willing to be a friend of God? Are you ready to tackle life, no longer alone, but with the unbreakable bond of friendship with the word of God made flesh, Jesus?