“10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
In a culture where online communications and communities can be set up in seconds, it is striking that loneliness is still rampant. Even in church, a place where we might hope for an oasis of love and acceptance, we can find interactions awkward and superficial.
“I’ll be there for you” Friends, the series featuring six single people in their 20s living in NY, attracted huge audiences when it was first aired from the mid-1990s, and is still shown almost continuously all over the world. What explains the phenomenal success? What is portrayed in Friends is what we dream of, a group of friends who become like family.
The theme of friendship takes us right to the heart of the Bible’s message. God is relational. He has from eternity existed in a relationship of loving friendship within the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He created us in his Image as relational beings in Genesis 1, uniquely able to relate to him in love. Genesis 2 provides us with a picture of life as it was designed to be, with Adam and Eve enjoying perfect relationships with God, one another and the world around them, before everything was spoilt by the rejection of God’s authority. A sense of aching nostalgia for what has been lost is evoked by the description of God walking in the cool of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, with the implication that it has been God’s custom to take a daily stroll with his image-friend.
What now, can we be friends with God again? Are we left to have imperfect and hurtful relationships with other humans forever? Does God have a rescue plan?
God’s plan of salvation – Jesus dying on the Cross for his enemies to become his friends (Romans 5:10-11) – is designed not only to restore our vertical relationship with God but also to create horizontal relationships of loving friendships between human beings in his family. He calls us to himself individually, as members of a new community. Deep relationships can, and should, develop as we grow together in the church into the likeness of Christ, and serve together in mission. After Christ’s return, there will be no marriage (Mt 22:30), but great intimacy will be enjoyed in the beyond-sexuality delight of friendship with one another as God’s people in the new creation
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of friendship. Thank you for giving us the blessing of being made in your Image Father that we can experience the intimacy that you have in the Godhead. Lord, please open our eyes to the gospel and let it permeate our lives to every facet, help us in our friendships to be mature and aim to grow each other up in Christ. Amen