Volumes have been written on friendship and love and yet it is not infrequent that many friendships, including those sealed in the bond of marriage, end up in terrible disaster. While the rate of divorces in Western countries is much higher, many friendships and marriages in our own country are not bed of roses either. There are a variety of reasons why friendships fail or have the possibility of failing. Those with a negative experience of a failed friendship are then afraid to enter again into another friendship or relationship. Every person is complex and when two individuals enter a relationship, that complexity increases double fold. Could that be the reason why one rarely hears about friendship with God?
In the Bible St. John writes, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
In a scenario when number of friendships fail, can one even think about friendship with God, who, we do not actually see and who, for all we know, may be even more complex than us humans? And the fundamental ingredient for a friendship to start and prosper is naturally, love. As humans we are used to tangible expressions of love, be it from parents or friends. So the basic question is, if friendship with God is at all possible? More importantly, can we even speak about our relationship with God in terms of “friendship”? Should that relationship not be one filled with “awe”, “reverence” and “wonder”, making an automatic reverential distance from that divine being? Or are these just theoretical and theological questions?
Be that as it may, in the revelation Jesus Christ makes about God, we get quite a different, if only a more intimate, understanding of our relationship with God. Jesus constantly spoke of God in terms of love, the very first ingredient of friendship. Nor were Jesus’ words veiled in mysterious language or religious jargon.
Of late I have been more and more fascinated by Jesus’ words from the gospel of John, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends…” Jesus compares his relationship with us to an even more intimate relation, “I am the vine, you are the branches… for apart from me ye can do nothing.” And because he was going to sacrifice his life on the cross for us, he had said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” To seal this bond he tells us, “Remain in me… Remain in my love.”
Should one still hesitate to be convinced that God calls us to a close and intimate friendship with him?