He Calls Me Friend

“David and Lacy Miller . . . friends of God.”

The director of an inner-city mission spoke these words about a couple who died tragically in a small plane crash, leaving behind three young children. I stopped listening as he said: Friends of God. I couldn’t think of three more dynamic words to use in a eulogy; decades later they ring in my memory like a crystal-toned bell— deep, rich, pure. What a tribute!

Brother Leo continued to describe the young couple—their faith in God, their vibrant witness to unbelievers and the gifts they used promoting God’s work in our city. Later, I heard some in the immediate family were upset because he didn’t say anything “nice” about the Millers.

I was stunned.

How much better can you get than “friends of God?” After all, this puts you in the company of Abraham, the first one to be called God’s friend—the father of all Hebrews, the receiver of the covenant of God, the one justified by faith, the “blessing to all nations.” In being called God’s friends, David and Lacy were sharing a great heritage.

Adam and Eve were God’s friends, too. The Lord God walked and talked with them in the Garden of Eden, the utopia designed as their home. Even their formation was an act of friendship, as all creation couldn’t provide the relationship God desired. Only man and woman could fully express, reflect—and fellowship—with the Divine.

Friends. Companions. Created ones communing with the Creator. What could be greater than this?

With one seed of discontent, one bite of rebellion and a basic mistrust of the heart of God, the scene was ruined forever. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was violated, and surely the tree of life would be next. In his compassion, God could not allow this to happen. So he sent Adam and Eve out of the garden lest they eat from the second tree and live forever in their rebellious state.

His actions seemed punitive and cruel. But in reality, they were protective and merciful.

Fast forward to another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, when God again walked with his friends—in the form of Jesus with his disciples. They didn’t know God’s Son had come to take the punishment for the sin of eating from the tree of good and evil. He alone would pay the penalty. They were beginning to understand, but couldn’t fully comprehend, that he would become the tree of life and by doing so would grant eternal life untainted with sin.

The reason?

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.“

It’s a powerful relationship, being friends of God—to be considered worth the ultimate sacrifice which was necessary for the relationship to be restored. In one broad brushstroke, Jesus repainted the image to its original design:

“You are my friends . . .”

“No longer do I call you slaves, but I have called you friends . . .”

Because of Jesus’ love and sacrifice, I can be God’s friend. No longer an enemy and much more than a servant, I am elevated to the closest possible human relationship with God. Not only am I on speaking terms with the Holy One, but I’m invited into an intimacy reserved for those who hear the invitation and respond. At the deepest level, in my heart of hearts, God and I are “doing life” together. With the indwelling of his Spirit, he is as close as my breath. Indeed, the meaning of Spirit—Ruach—actually means breath. In the same way he breathed life into the first Adam, in the second Adam (Christ) he imparts his very life to me, and to all who believe.

If only David and Lacy’s family members could realize the honor bestowed on their loved ones by the words spoken that day.

Friendship with God—the highest privilege. And the ultimate compliment.