Do you have any good friends? Are you a good friend to someone else? Having friends can actually improve women’s health, according to a UCLA study done by scientists Laura Cousin Klein and Shelly Taylor. Their research found that women under stress experience at least temporary relief by bonding with her pals, which releases the hormone oxytocin, which, among other things, helps create a sense of tranquility.
And study after study has shown that social ties actually reduce our risk of disease by lowering our blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol.
It has been said a friend is one who walks in when others walk out. It takes a long time to build true friendships. They don’t come all that often in life.
It was Aristotle who said rather cynically, “O my friends, there is no friend.” Maybe that is because Aristotle did not know about the friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 NKJV), the friend who wants to enter into a relationship with all of us. I am speaking, of course, about Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to be a friend of God? I know that God extends His friendship toward us, but the question is, are we reciprocating? Are we responding appropriately?
Jesus spoke about true friendship with others and with God. He said, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:12–14 NLT).
Here we find that Jesus is offering His friendship to all of humanity. But here is what we need to know: A friendship consists of two people committing themselves to each other. In other words, I can’t just say to you, “From now on I am your close friend.” Rather, you would need to enter into friendship with me as well. It is a partnership, an agreement.
In the same way, I can’t simply say that I am God’s friend unless he responds. Nor can God say that I am his friend unless I respond. So here is what we need to know: God has offered His friendship to us. Jesus also said, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you” (John 15:16). Imagine that for a moment. God chose us to be his friends, to be His companions.
Maybe when you were growing up, you were forced to be friends with someone. Maybe your mother felt sorry for someone and said, “Make that person your friend. Take them with you.” You didn’t want to be a friend with that person. Or maybe you went out on a blind date. You were set up with someone and you felt pressure to be that person’s friend when you really didn’t want to be.
That is not the case with God. He wants to be your friend. He has pledged His unwavering offer of friendship to us. If we want to respond in kind, here is what we need to do.
We need to obey him. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). How do we demonstrate our friendship with God? We do what he says. And if we don’t, then we have no right to call ourselves his friends.
God has a lot of so-called friends. They say they love him. But then they will go out deliberately break his commandments. They will go out and intentionally do what he tells them not to do, all the while boasting of their love for him. But Jesus said that his friends will do what he commands.
We need to obey actively. The obedience Jesus required was an active obedience. Again, he said, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). Some think that it is enough to merely avoid what God forbids. They might say, “Well, I am not a thief,” or list some other thing that God tells us not to do. But that would be like someone saying, “Well, I am your friend because I don’t insult you or beat you up.” Friendship is more than just the absence of bad things; it is also the presence of good things. God really wants both from us.
We need to obey continuously. In the original language, the word “do” that Jesus used speaks of something that is continuous. In other words, it means a constant obedience. This does not mean we must be perfect, because no one is. But it does mean that when we fall, we get up and try again. We want to honor the commitment we have made to God.
We need to obey even in the little things. True friends of God obey him in even the smallest matters. Jesus didn’t say, “You are my friends if you do whatever you are comfortable with or what you personally agree with or what you find easy.”
We need to obey voluntarily. True friends of God obey him because they want to. When you love someone, you like to do things for them. Sometimes we look at giving and serving as a duty. When we are really friends of God, it is a delight, a privilege to do something that he tells us to do.
We need to cultivate the friendship. True friendship with God must be maintained by cultivation. When someone is your close friend, you talk to him or her a lot. You shoot them emails. You text them. You often have ongoing conversations. Friends talk to friends. And that is what we should be doing with God – constantly communicating with him. That is what prayer is, really. When you are in friendship with God, you will cultivate the communication. And when you are out of friendship with God, you won’t want that communication.
You have a friend in high places who will never betray you, who is extending communication and fellowship to you that will never betray your confidence. God loves you and offers his friendship to you. Do you want it? Do you have friendship with God?