Friendship with God

by Christine Sine

by Bill Borror

You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer….
John 15:14-15

For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.
Teresa of Avila

Fear not the coming of your God; fear not his friendship. He will not (reduce) you when he comes; rather he will enlarge you. So that you might know that he will enlarge you he not only promised to come, saying, ‘I will dwell with them,’ but he also promised to enlarge you, adding, ‘and I will walk with them.’ You see then, if you love, how much room he gives you. Fear is a suffering that oppresses us. But look at the immensity of love. ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts’ (Romans 5.5).
Augustine of Hippo Sermons, 23.

I must admit that it has taken me the better part of three decades to reembrace the language of “friendship with Jesus.”  It is not that I have minimized God’s love for us or ignored what it means for us to grow in love with Christ, but I was reacting to the popular and shallow theology of my evangelical upbringing.  The “personal Jesus” that was often promoted was a particular emotive experience that seemed to be not only divorced from historical Christianity, but quite accommodating to whatever cultural and political milieu in which it was situated.  As J. B. Philips once observed, that God is too small.

But the answer is not in making God too circuitous or so watered-down that the presented deity literally is not worth getting up on Sunday morning to go and worship.  Having spent my entire adult career in mainline protestant churches, I have observed a different kind of flight from historical Christianity, that in many ways is a form of functional atheism. Karl Barth observed, “One cannot speak of God simply by speaking of man in a loud voice.”  This God is too thin.

The God revealed in Jesus Christ is both the creator of the cosmos and the lover of the created.  Jesus is both the truth incarnate and the maker of breakfast for his disciples.  He is both the Resurrection and the Crucified.  He is God and Lord and a friend that will never leave us or forsake us.  Jesus was the friend of Augustine of Hippo, the shaper of Western Christianity and Jesus was the friend of my grandmother Hattie of Shirley’s Lane WV, the person who first told me about and reflected the God that is Love.  

Genuine friendships are built on trust, mutual affection, shared perspectives, and conversations.  Friendship with God is not only rooted in a relationship with Jesus, but it is having our “hearts expanded” so that we may love as Jesus loved.    This love means caring for the people of God whether we agree with them or not.  And it entails embracing the scars of the world, regardless of what that may ultimately cost us.     

Neither reform nor deconstruction is going to transform the current state of the church.

William Temple observed, “True worship is when a person, through their person, attains intimacy and friendship with God.”  And friendship with God will make our connections with one another look a little more like what Jesus promised when he said the world we know we belong to him by the way we love one other (John 13:35).

photo by Cornelia Steinwender on Unsplash

A Journey Into God’s Resurrection-created World

Celebrate the Easter Season with this free download! Though originally published in 2009, the hope that comes from Resurrection Sunday and continues into Pentecost is always needed! We have made some small additions for a COVID-19 reality, but feel that many of the suggestions can be adapted. Christine invites us to Journey Into God’s Resurrection-created World as a way to celebrate this season. The joy that comes when we recognize what Jesus has done for us is infectious and this book outlines creative ways to invest in the lives of those around us, including those we normally disregard.

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