"I just wanted to call to see how you're doing . . . " As warm and innocuous as that sounds, like Ray Walston, my antennae go up when I get those words from an old friend who, after many silent years, calls or e-mails me. I can be pretty sure the next words will be, ". . . and tell you about this great opportunity I discovered that allowed me to put my four children through college, pay off my delinquent mortgage, win the Congressional Medal of Honor, and become dictator of a previously unknown banana republic. All you need is twenty minutes a day and enough chutzpah to prey on your friends!"
I have a Facebook account that has absolutely no information about me whatsoever (including no picture, for obvious reasons). And yet, I get "friend" requests from people whose names I cannot pronounce, no less recognize. I do recognize that, judging by most social media outlets I've seen, "friends" consist of people who, inexplicably, pretend to care about what you ate at Wendy's, and how many Goobers your two-year-old can stick up his nose.
I have remarkably few friends. That may be because of my personality, but I like to think it's because my definition of "friend" is rather exclusive. I love God's description: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17).
One of the bible's most comprehensive stories of friendship is that of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18 - 20). Their souls were knit together; they faced common enemies; they served the same God; they harbored neither jealousy nor competition between them, only mutual concern; and they were willing to risk loss for each other's welfare. Even after Jonathan's death, David honored his memory and descendants (2 Samuel 9). There was no thought of "unfriending."
Some want to be friends only with people who can profit them (Proverbs 14:20). Or, when trouble comes, they depart (Psalm 35:13 - 16). A true friend is even better to have than a close relative (Proverbs 18:24; 27:10). It's the bond of love and genuine concern that counts. Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood.
One of the distinctives of the God of the bible is that He is a personal Being Who wants to be friends with sinful mortals who have absolutely nothing to offer Him. Artful Abraham and murdering Moses were God's friends (Exodus 33:11; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). Jesus, the incarnate God, was recognized as a friend of those whom the self-righteous would not touch (Matthew 11:19). He calls his followers "friends," and shares his secrets with them (John 15:13 - 15). He sacrificed his life to make his enemies his friends (Romans 5:8 - 10).
God, in Christ, has issued a friend request to every man and woman: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). He has promised never to unfriend those who accept his invitation: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:37).
His interest in you is genuine, and all he wants in return is your obedient love: "And [Jesus] said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 22:37 - 39). So, how are you doing?
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