I’m doing some readings in systematic theology this summer with a group of students. As I was reading about the fellowship between the three Persons of the Godhead, I wondered what the Bible had to say about God’s friends.
In 2 Chronicles 20.7, Jehoshaphat asked JHWH about “Abraham your friend”. James echoed these sentiments when he called Abraham the “friend of God” in James 2.23. So that’s one–Abraham.
Exodus 33.11 tells us that God spoke to Moses face to face, “as a man speaks to his friend”. So Moses and God must have been friends–at least Moses thought so, or he would not have described the relationship that way.
Jesus, the God-Man, called His rag-tag group of disciples His friends in John 15.13, saying He would gladly lay down His life for them. In Matthew 26.50, He even greeted Judas Iscariot as His friend in Gethsemane on the night he betrayed Him. Some friend.
Lazarus was a friend of Jesus, as John 11.11 indicates–in fact, he was a friend of all the disciples.
But the most striking description of Jesus’ friends came from His own lips, when in Luke 7.34 He rebutted the accusations of Israel’s leaders by saying, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ ” Jesus’ associations, and the good meals and good times He enjoyed in the company of the people He came to redeem, were misunderstood and criticized by his enemies. But I find these words reassuring.
My wise parents taught me to choose my friends carefully, knowing that the wrong ones could have a devastating influence on me. In fact, they determined that if I were unable to make the right choices myself, they would make them for me. I remember one Grade 6 classmate of mine showing up at my house after dark one night, a cigarette hanging out of his smirking mouth, asking if I could come out. (He had enjoyed elementary school so much he had decided to extend his stay by several years.) I remember my mother telling him that he was not acceptable as my friend and that he should go home to bed. For the rest of Grade 6 (mine, anyway) he mocked me at every opportunity and asked, “So, is your mommy still choosing your friends for you?” Mom needn’t have worried, though–this guy was not one I would have chosen as a friend, either.
God the Father didn’t choose Jesus’ friends for Him, I don’t expect. Jesus knew He would be misunderstood, and was perfectly willing to be misunderstood by the right people–even over His choice of friends. He was the friend of Law giver and law-breaker alike, and I’m unspeakably grateful He’s willing to be my friend, too.
“Jesus! what a Friends for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; / Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole. / Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah! what a Friend! / Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.” — J. Wilbur Chapman, 1910