In 2004, Singer/Songwriter Israel Houghton released a song “Friend of God” based on the scripture from James 2:23, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.” That verse evokes different responses – I hope the sense of familiarity of God as simply a pal or just another soul mate that you try to find time to catch up with occasionally is not what readers stick with in their minds when they see or sing “I’m a friend of God.” Rather, we should pause to look at the phrase, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness…” as the critical point of this passage.
In recent days, various events have transpired in my life to cause me to raise questions about friendships; questions about depth, goodness, weakness, vulnerability, tension, conflict, ideology, goals, etc. During the season of Lent this year, I am reading several books and blogs that approach Lent differently – as a twist, I’m attempting to keep this notion of friendship on the sidelines of everything I’m reading and listening to; sort of a filter through which I process what I’m reading.
On Facebook, I posed the question, https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjoel.tooley%2Fposts%2F10155400045688888&width=500” target=”_blank”>”What are 3 things that you and a ‘best’ friend need to have in common?” It’s interesting the varied responses that were received:
- Mutual respect
- Common bond
- Shared experiences
- Honesty without fear
- Shared interests
- …and many others
When I look at a list like this that has been randomly compiled, it’s interesting to see themes that reflect some of the imagery of what it means to be, like Abraham, “credited as righteousness.”
As Lent is a journey towards the cross – a reminder of the tension and the obedience of Jesus as He moved Himself closer and closer to the redemptive acts of God, we know that He made intentional efforts to draw in those who were His closest followers so that they could fully experience that which would be “credited as righteousness.”
In my own friendships – acquaintances, lunch buddies, coffee friends, and those who would even fall into that “close circle” of friends, I’m striving to take this Lenten journey through my own filter of friendship. I long to be a “friend of God” – I’m convinced that happens best when I experience the fullness of being a friend with those in my life whom God has brought us together.
In his newest book, “I AM: The Startling Claim of Jesus,”, Dr. Jesse Middendorf writes, “Here, (in Exodus 3) God declares the name by which God will be known to the Israelites from that time forward: ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, ‘ The LORD, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation’ (Ex. 3:14-15). This is said by some to be the most theological passage in all of Scripture. The significance of this passage in Exodus 3 is not so much the declaration of the name of God. It is the revelation and assertion of the authority of God. In the very declaration of the name, the authority of the LORD is established.” (page 10).
Middendorf strikes out into the very essence of God and His character – the essence of the One in whom we place our trust, our bond, our confidence. God – the One we come into full experience with – so that we may experience righteousness. So that we may experience what it means to be called “Friend of God.”
The season of Lent often ushers followers of Jesus into a season of fasting, praying and serving. This season for me, I am taking on the actions of deliberately identifying themes of righteousness within friendships – I guess my ultimate aim is to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in my life in identifying those areas where I need to surrender so that I may look more like God – my friend.