The Scriptures are full of stories of great friendships, the greatest of which is our friendship with God. All friendships are modeled on the covenant of love which God has with His people. From the beginning of Genesis we see that God created everything solely out of love for us. In many places in the Scriptures it is obvious that we are "the apple of His eye", the center of His every thought. (This is a reference to Deut. 32:10: "He shielded them and cared for them, guarding them as the apple of his eye.") He made everything for us, gift upon gift upon gift. He gave us freedom, which is one of the greatest gifts of love He could have given us because He knew we could abuse it. But love is not love without freedom; without freedom our relationship would be one of slave to a master. Rather, because God is love, He gave us the relationship of friendship with Him. No greater friend could you or I ever find!!
One of my favorite examples of friendship in the Bible is one I mention frequently. In Exodus 33 Moses reminded God that He had called him "my intimate friend" and then God proceeded to give Moses what he asked. God passed by, showing Moses His back and pronouncing His very name. That is indeed a gift of intimacy and deep friendship. The other story that I love which really shows God's understanding of friendship is the story in 1 Kings 19 in which Elijah was nearly beaten down by his enemies and was tired almost unto death by the work he had done for the Lord. God helped Elijah to come into His presence on Mt. Horeb and then approached him with the tenderness of an understanding friend. Elijah needed gentleness and a lot of TLC. Therefore, instead of coming in the bombast with which we are accustomed to seeing up to that point in the Scriptures, God approached Elijah in a small whispering sound. And further, God heeded Elijah's request and gave him a companion on the journey: Elisha, a friend!
And who could forget the incredible friendship of David and Jonathan? Jonathan was the oldest son of David's king, Saul. David had a confusing relationship with Saul due to Saul's madness, yet Jonathan loved David despite the things Saul said about him. In 1 Samuel 18:1 it says: "Jonathan had become as fond of David as if his life depended on him; he loved him as he loved himself." In the most famous scene of all, (1 Sam 20) Jonathan defied his father to protect David from Saul's wrath. Jonathan warned David of Saul's intentions to kill him and thus saved David's life, but in doing so Jonathan knew they would never see each other again. That was an incredible sacrifice for a friend he loved like a brother.
In the Book of Sirach, (6:5-17) we find a beautiful description of friendship, what it is not, and what it is. True friendship is described as this:
"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he (she) who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his (her) worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as the one who fears God finds;
For he (she) who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his (her) friend will be like himself."
In the New Testament there are many references to friendship because we have the friendship of Jesus. He calls His disciples "friend" over and over again, culminating in His statement that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend, (John15:13). He not only said this, but He followed through: His death and resurrection were the ultimate act of friendship for each and every one of us. Furthermore, that friendship will continue until the end of time and beyond. We have a never ending friendship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
One of the best ways this friendship with God continues is through the friends He gives us throughout our lifetime. Our friends can often be closer to us than our relatives. And sometimes our relatives are our closest friends. Indeed for those of us who are married, our spouses are our best friends. If we have true friends in addition to that we are doubly blest! Our friends are those people with whom we share our deepest thoughts, our laughter (and lots of it), our fears, our pain, our dreams, and our sorrows on a continual basis. They are the ones who know us fully... and still love us, "warts and all." They are the ones who, even if many miles and a lot of years have separated us from being together, when we are back in each other's presence it seems like hardly a day has gone by. A friend is one we trust so much that even when they say the difficult things we need to hear, we know it is said in love and we take it to heart without offense. Friends desire what is best for us, and we can trust them with anything and everything. Our friends are God's way of saying, "I love you" to us. And they say it in so many ways.
Today let us be grateful for the gift of the friends God has given us. If you have not told your friends just how much they mean to you lately, do so today. And if you have not told God lately how much your friends mean to you, do so today also. In addition, take the time to realize that you are friend to someone (or many) and to that someone, you are a great gift. It is important for each of to realize that small gestures of friendship can mean a lot to others, and that we are God's way of telling them that they are loved. Friendship is a two way street, so we need to be grateful for our friends, and acknowledge that we are part of God's message to them as well.
May we be filled with gratitude for God's friendship, the friendship from which all other friendships flow. May we be filled with gratitude for all the signs of His friendship with us. May we be filled with the courage to be a friend to those who are in need of it, especially the lonely, the elderly, the ill, the poor, and the outcast. And may we be filled with the love and laughter of those with whom we celebrate the gift of life continually, the dearest friends whom He has given. Let us continue to meet in the Heart of our dear Friend and Lord, Jesus. Peace!