‘You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family’.
This popular saying is sometimes used to excuse ourselves from making an effort to maintain healthy family relationships while we channel our time and energy into our friendships.
As Christians we don’t really have that option. We know that in His sovereign plan God ordained that we be placed in our families for a reason. As difficult as this can be in some cases, we are His anointed representatives in our families. Part of this important role is to love our family and continually invest in the health of our relationships, no matter the challenges.
We can treat our relationship with God the same way. He made us, so of course He’ll stand by us no matter how we behave, right? Just like with our earthly families, we can take our Heavenly Father for granted and neglect our relationship with Him.
Something incredible happens the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We are adopted into His family and we become His friends (cf. Rom. 8:14-17; Eph. 1:3-6; 1 John 3:1-3; John 15:15). Two for the price for one. What a wonderful bonus!
It’s a special privilege to be a friend. Unlike Facebook ‘friends’, true friendship means something. It implies loyalty, respect, trust and sacrificial love. When it comes down to it, how many of our earthly friendships can honestly be described that way?
God saw Abraham this way. Three times the Bible tells us that Abraham was called a friend of God: 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8 and James 2:23.
“... and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'-and he was called a friend of God.” (Jas. 2:23)
Abraham left the security and stability of his family home to follow God to a foreign country where he sojourned like a nomad for the rest of his life. Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, his ‘child of promise’. Time and again he demonstrated loyalty, respect, trust and sacrificial love. But Abraham wasn’t perfect. Far from it.
Nevertheless, God said:
“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has promised him.” (Gen. 18:17-19)
Once we are washed by the saving blood of Christ (cf. 1 John 1:7-9), our position before God is 100% secured. We are and always will be His family and His friends.
But our practice is not always aligned with our position. Just like with our human families and friendships, we need to strive to ensure our behaviour (our practice) matches our position. Not in order to earn or retain our position, but simply to demonstrate our eternal appreciation for what we have in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9-10; John 15:12-14; Rom. 12). That’s called love. That’s what distinguishes true friendship from superficial friendship. That’s what produces even greater closeness and intimacy with our Lord.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near you” (Jas. 4:8)
Like Abraham, we’ll continue to make mistakes and need to seek forgiveness in order to restore the communication channels (cf. Isa. 59:2), but all the while looking forward to the day when Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom and set all things right:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:1-4)
In the meantime, let’s take every opportunity to invest in our relationship with Jesus and show Him the love and respect He so richly deserves. After all:
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:13-14)