The Surprise of Friendship

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

(John 15:15, ESV)

Many people throughout the world find themselves enriched by the gift of friendship. We desire a closeness of relationship with others, to know and be known. But what makes a friendship possible? Some think that friendships are grounded in common interests and that we gravitate toward people who like the same things we like. Others think that friendships are bound in mutuality and equality, thus making friendship between different social classes impossible. But if friendship requires mutual affection, how can we befriend someone who is our enemy? And if friendship is only possible among equals, how can we become friends of God?

Perhaps few things are more surprising than the fact that the Ruler of all creation, who needs and lacks nothing, has stooped low not only to heal us and save us, but also to bless us with the gift of friendship. Throughout much of world history, “deities” have demanded fealty and reverence, but rarely has one declared that it desires to befriend its creatures. And yet Jesus makes the surprising claim that the Ruler and Maker of the universe would offer us, His creatures, the gift of friendship—a friendship that is made possible in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. As Jesus reminds us in John 15, He has come to reveal the Father to us and has come to speak the very words of God the Father to us. And then, not only does He draw us near to the Father, but Jesus also sends the Spirit—the bond of love between the Father and the Son—so that we might love God with the very love of God (Romans 5:5). We have, in a word, been befriended with the friendship of God.

At Christmas, as we remember the First Advent of the Son of God, it is good and proper for us to do so with grateful hearts. Indeed, the Lord has heard our prayers and the Lord has come near to us. And we, those who have been welcomed into the courts of the Almighty as beloved friends, indeed are glad.