Amity and Enmity
“Friendship,” according to boxing great Muhammad Ali, “is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything at all.”
Hopefully you have good, solid friends, those upon whom you know you can always depend to cheer you up, help you out, and keep you going when times get tough – the kind of people who, in the words of Walter Winchell, walk in when the rest of the world walks out. There’s got to be at least one friend in your life who will always be honest with you, always be trustworthy, always have your best interest at heart.
Believe it or not, God can be that kind of friend.
In certain circles this is a rather popular concept, at least recently; you don’t have to be in too many contemporary worship sets or listen long to Christian radio without soon hearing someone announce “I am a friend of God” or affirm “the One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine” or the (possibly sarcastic) boast, “I am the friendliest of friends of God.”
It is a staggering concept, if you think about it, that the Supreme Being – the Mind behind the universe, the only enduring, eternal, infinite One – is willing and able to be your friend. There is a catch, however.
Three separate times the Patriarch Abraham is referred to as “God’s friend.” But was that title lightly bestowed? It would seem clear that this friendship came about because Abraham “believed God” (c.f. Gen 15.6 along w/ Rom 4.3), which must be understood to be not mere doctrinal assent on Abraham’s part but subsequent obedience. It is noteworthy that in the Hebrew Bible the word translated as “faith,” “trust,” or “belief” can equally be rendered “faithful” or “faithfulness” – in other words, right belief will perforce lead to right action. The two are inseparable. In our classical Western mindset, we have divorced the two, to our detriment. Paraphrasing Caneday, there is no belief apart from good works, nor are there good works apart from belief.
If a friendly relationship with the Creator is possible, is it not vital to know how Christ defined it? He surely did, in a succinct sentence:
“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
So it’s pretty clear friendship with God is contingent upon obedience towards God. We don’t have the right to demand submission from fellow humans as a test of friendship, but God does.
Some time back, at the church where I served as pastor at the time, a young woman came to me for counseling. She’d had a series of relationships with men, some of whom she’d married, some she hadn’t; with some she’d borne children. All of the relationships had been rocky and none had ended well. She wanted to know why her life was so messed up, and how it could change. I told her there were undoubtedly a number of influences and events which factored into her life choices, but it could all be boiled down to one simple answer: Jesus wasn’t very high on her priority list.
You see, she claimed to be a Christian, and I never doubted her profession of faith … just its importance to her. I’m not saying she didn’t love the Lord. I said she loved a lot of things more than she loved him, and until that changed – until he took the preeminent place in her thinking – she would continue in the pattern she’d been living.
None of this was said with any air of superiority or condemnation. I know what it’s like to screw up. She knew I spoke from compassion as well as deep conviction. She agreed with my analysis. I’d hoped she’d repent, but instead she quit coming to church. People got mad at me.
Doesn’t God love her, no matter what, you ask? Absolutely. But God might not like her very much – or you or I, for that matter. Love isn’t earned, but likability is.
Do you profess faith? That’s nice, but keep in mind: Faith without faithfulness is apostasy.
There’s a lovely Arab proverb that fits here: “A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”
That is the kind of relationship God offers.
Conversely, there’s this:
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
This present age is infected with sin, intractably rebellious against its Maker. You cannot be allied with both it and God at the same time. There is no third way; you must choose one side or the other.
Friends or enemies? Which will it be?