by Patty Mapes Executive Director of Nexus Connection
The Bible sets the goal for us to be a friend of God. You may have heard people talk about what a great relationship they have with God. No longer being young I have learned to not just listen to what people say but to look for the evidence, to look for the fruit in their lives. Does the person speaking reflect who God is? Does the person have good friends? Have they had some of the same friends for years? What does this person know about being a friend of God, or anyone else?
You see, it has occurred to me that if we cannot be a friend to someone that we can see, touch, feel and hear audibly, we might not have the tools or capacity to have a friendship and deep communion with someone whom we cannot always see, touch, feel and hear audibly.
Would you agree that the same capacity for the attributes of friendship with each other, such as loyalty, honoring others, generosity, acting with accountability, and trustworthiness, are also required to become a friend of God? Would God have a friend who does not listen to what He says, is not loyal to Him, or not trustworthy? I think not. He will love us, He will care about us, but I don’t believe that He will call us His friends under those circumstances.
Imagine a line or continuum called Relationship. At one end of the line would be the beginning point we will call awareness (of another) and at the far end of that line would be intimacy. In between we move from awareness to acquaintance, to social friends, to advisors, to intimate friends.
Process of Relationship
Awareness → Acquaintance → Social → Advisor → Intimate →
Levels of Relationship:
Awareness: We know the person exists. They might be a celebrity, or a neighbor or someone who rides the same train as we do.
Acquaintance: We are not only aware of this person but we have met them, know their name, and perhaps a little about them. They may work where we work, live in our neighborhood or have children at school with our children. They can also be people we met at church or at the grocery store. Some people we are aware of are also our acquaintances.
Social: This is the category of friends that we often think of first when asked about our friends. These are the people that we talk to regularly, go out with or have into our homes. They know more about us than our acquaintances and we may talk about some things that are important to us, or we may not. We care about these people and they care about us in varying degrees. Some of our acquaintances are also social friends.
Advisors: Advisor is not a perfect word here, but I have used it for emphasis to describe a special subset of our social friends. Advisors are the people that we have some sense or level of accountability to. They are the truer friends than others; they will tell us the truth, even when it hurts or is unpopular. They stand for many of the things we stand for and believe in many of the things that we believe in. This doesn’t mean that we are identical, but we have a relationship based on things that we share a common and have a high value for. They love us and weep when we weep, and rejoice when we rejoice. Some of our social friends are also our advisors.
Intimate: Intimate friends are the fewest of all of course. They know us deeply. They know things that are private and most personal and they are our most valuable friends (relationships). These are people who will sacrifice for us, and maybe even give their lives for us. Some of our advisors, are also intimate friends.
One characteristic of this process or levels of relationship that might jump out to you is that as we move to higher levels of friendship, the subset of friends that fall into the next category is smaller.
My friend gave a going away party for someone once, and they joked about inviting the person’s hundred “best friends”. Sadly, if you have one hundred “best friends” you may really have none, because your best friends are going to fall far to the right of center on this continuum. The honoree was long on acquaintances and, but lacked the understanding and the skills to cultivate deeper relationships. Our best friends are our intimate friends which should include( but not be limited to) our spouses.
Another important characteristic of these levels is that the attributes of friendship given above, increase as you move from left to right. You may have no trust for a person that you are simply aware of while they are waiting for the same train as you, but you will have a great deal of trust for your advisors, and more for your intimate friends.
One of the reasons that we need our natural friends is that healthy and enduring friendships nurture in us the very attributes that we need to be a friend of God.
John 15:10-15 says, If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done–kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.
This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.
This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.
You are my friends when you do the things I command you.
I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. [i]
Implicit in this scripture is the message that trustworthiness, the capacity to receive correction, the ability to be loyal in the face of personal detriment, a willingness to listen, to give our time in privacy to another and to share our innermost thoughts and feelings, are part of walking with God and being His friend. Walking with God is walking in communion with Him, endeavoring to see what He sees, and respond in the way that He is telling us to respond.
If you are walking in an intimate relationship with God today, perhaps you might express your gratitude sometime to those friends and mates who have helped you cultivate that capacity in your own life.
If you are not walking in the depth of relationship with God today that you truly desire, then go after Him. While you are pursuing Him, perhaps it would be good to also practice on the friends you have around you?
[i] “Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright � 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.”