We find ourselves living in a time when the common question is not “Who are your friends?” but “How many friends do you have?” The focus is on numbers, not names. This makes sense in our social media obsessed world where it is possible to have hundreds, even thousands of friends. Or at least that’s the word we use when describing these people although many we’ve never met in person and some we could possibly pass by in a crowd and not recognize. But they are our friends. Right?
Maybe not. Maybe we’ve gutted that potent word of its force, and now it is so common as to mean everything, or, in other words, nothing. We’ve rendered it impotent. It is interesting that of all the words that could have been used to describe this man’s relationship with God, the one chosen was friend. And the man was a particular man with a name – Abraham.
“Being a friend is the opposite of being an enemy. That simple contrast stands out above all else in Abraham. Abraham was on such terms with his God that he responded without suspicion and without fear. Abraham somehow knew that God was on his side, that God was for him and with him, a friend…To be a friend of God does not mean everything is cozy between you and the Almighty. To be a friend to someone does not mean you pamper or indulge him or her. Friendship also involves struggle and loss, tension and turbulence…A friend, if honest and true, will tell you things you don’t want to hear. A friend, if deeply serious about you, will do things that feel painful. Friends do that because they respect our dignity and honor our uniqueness.”
So instead of wasting time focusing on numbers, how about bringing to mind some names that fit the above description of a friend? Could one of those friends be God? What would it mean for you to call yourself a friend of God? What could it mean for you to live like that?
Friend is totally about a relationship, not a function.
And that’s the Memo.
By Eugene Peterson