I read the most surprising thing in the Bible last week. It not only seemed strange but I always believed the opposite was true. As soon as I read it I stopped, “I am going to have to think about this one… that makes no sense to me.”
“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him”
I must have scanned over this many, many times over the years. I looked at it with fresh eyes.
Friendship with God is connected to fear of God.
I don’t know about you but I’ve heard quite a few “fear of the Lord” sermons in my lifetime. I’ve even read a few books on the topic. None of them left me feeling like God’s friend. Not in the least bit. In fact, I’ve often heard in these sermons, “Stop making God merely your buddy and friend… we need to have a healthy fear of God and his holiness!”
That’s not what God says. He says friendship is for those who fear.
What am I getting wrong? Why don’t those two legos fit?
Then it struck me.
Friendship is Being Known
The holiness of God is deeply connected to God being God, not a mere man. God being perfect in all his ways. Being righteous and unchanging as opposed to sinful and fickle.
When we come to God as a Holy God, we are basically saying, “Ok, you are not an idol that I make in my own image. You are the true God that is who He is. I don’t shape you, you shape me. I don’t decide who you are, you reveal who you are.”
This is the beginning of friendship, isn’t it? To know someone for who they truly are. For someone to be vulnerable enough to be truly themselves without hiding.
I don’t step in and say, “To be my friend, you actually need to be like this.” When that is said, there is no possibility for friendship.
Marriages often go through phases where one of us wants to change the other. Sometimes the phase turns into a lifetime. We think in our mind, “If only you would be a little bit more like this or a little less like that.” When I go down that path, the creeping distance between my husband and I is almost tangible. Even though I never said a word of it to him. I am not allowing him to be who he is.
So, friendship with God is not just connected to his closeness and humility, it is deeply connected to his holiness. For Him to be who He is, and us to humble ourselves and allow Him to reveal that, is the beginning of true friendship with him.
Friendship is Standing in Truth
Holiness is also deeply connected with truth. I don’t see scripture refer to holiness without truth being deeply weaved in. Lies, deception and sin do not go together with fear of a holy God.
God’s holiness is also his sinlessness. We can be friends with God because there is not sin and deception.
The same cannot be said of people and our friendships. Friendship with anyone is fraught with difficulty because of our fallen nature. On offer is to enter the realm where I see who you are in Christ and also see who you are apart from Him.
Perhaps that’s why poets through the ages have always said finding a true friend is so rare. It is a scary and dangerous path to tread.
When I am messy and sinful I’m not just saying, “Accept me!”. I also say, “I’m allowing you to see parts of me you won’t approve of it all!”. It’s risking that we will choose to steadfastly communicate through the hurt and pain that comes with seeing people for who they truly are.
Friendship is standing in truth for one another despite how dark the circumstance.
Where does friendship with God begin? With me humbling myself and saying to God, “I want to see you for who you truly are, not who I want to shape you in to.” It’s realising that truth makes this possible and sin would destroy it but for His grace.
Where does friendship with one another begin? With each person humbly saying, “It’s safe here for us to expose who we truly are… even when it gets ugly and painful. Stand in and for truth on my behalf and I’ll do the same for you.”
Friendship with the Lord is for those who fear Him. It’s more true than I first realised.
Photo Creditfr: Elizabeth Albert