The overwhelming response to my question about whether or not we can be friends with God was yes – emphatically yes! Some of you were clear that you know God can be your friend because he already is! Others added helpful distinctions: God is a different kind of friend than our buddies or even our human soulmates.
I agree with you. And you all did such a nice job writing about it that I might just need to turn this blog over to the people. You should share with me more often!
Now I promised you my own thoughts. If the question were simply asked on a philosophical level, I might wonder. I might surmise it was wishful thinking on the part of human beings to aspire to be “friends” with God. But as usual, Scripture sets me straight, and that’s just the way I like it. Vatican II refers to Scripture as “the words of God expressed in human language” (Dei Verbum 13). I can’t think of a better way to learn about friendship with God.
The first Scripture verse that always comes to mind when I think about being God’s friend is Exodus 33:11: “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” The transcendent God of the Israelites was talking with Moses? No matter how awesome Moses was (and he was), he was still a human being, a creature, an imperfect person. But there was an intimacy between God and Moses that went down in Israelite lore as genuine friendship.
Abraham was another ancient who was called God’s friend. He is described as such three times in the Bible: 2 Chron. 20:7, Isa. 41:8, and James 2:23. How would you like it if this is how people described you? What if, instead of “short lady with curly brown hair and a bunch of kids,” people said of me, “You know, Amy, the friend of God?” Gulp! God give me the faith of Abraham!
Jesus, of course, called his disciples his friends. And not only his disciples. Remember this one: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matt. 11:19)? This was an accusation levelled at Jesus – friend of sinners! Never has a truer accusation been made!
Of course, we would be entirely remiss on the topic if we did not recall the remarkable words of Jesus said in farewell to his eleven faithful disciples (Judas had left the table): “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you” (Jn. 15:12-16). No commentary needed. These are words to pray by.
And finally, I share with you a passage that says it all. Yes, Judas had left the table, only to be reunited with Jesus in the garden, where he would kiss Jesus and betray him unto death, even death on a cross. How did Jesus address Judas as he approached in the garden? He called him “friend” (Mt. 26:50).
Catherine Doherty wrote that “all men who have religion of some sort are dreamers, and dreamers of a very special kind. They dream of unity between God and men.”
Friendship is about intimacy. It is an intentional intimacy. One of you aptly quoted the wisdom of St. Catherine of Siena: “God is closer to us than water is to a fish.” This is the stuff of dreams, indeed, but we know this dream is true. So dream on, friends of God, dream on!