Thursday, May 26, 2011

Friend of God

How does an acquiantance become a friend? What changes in this process?

In the Letter of James, during a discussion of the importance of 'action' accompaniying 'having beliefs' about God, James states that Abraham combined these two elements and thus became a 'friend of God'.

There seem to be plenty of people who hold opinions (beliefs) about God, but fewer who practice a faith. Might good evangelism thus have something to do with helping people move from acquiantance with (the idea of) God, to becoming friends with God?

Friendship of course involves matters such as noticing an initial commonality between me and another (beer-making, a love of art...); it them builds upon this by making time to discover more about the other (both the differences to me as well as the similarities). Finally it grows into common goals and decisions (small or large) about sharing a future, journeying together.

This final stage is essential. An aquaintance may have much in common with me, but unless our stories are somehow voluntarily allowed to interact with each other, such that we are mutuallly changed, then I think genuine friendship has not yet come to fruition.

If James is correct all of this would be transferable by analogy to the growing of relationships with God, too.

The Letter to James is, of course, not the only place in scripture when friendship with God is mooted. Famously John's Gospel describes Jesus as saying 'I do not consider you servants, but friends'.
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Thursday, May 05, 2011

In the desert

There are times when things are going swimmingly...and then there are times when they are not. I notice that fairly often these 'not so well' times correspond to things being taken away from me:

Perhaps my work seems less interesting, and consequently this 'lack' has a knock-on effect on my identity: I become bored or listless.

Perhaps something I have been doing has finished or (even worse) been taken out of my hands by someone else. My resulting frustration is only matched by my sense of failure and loss.

Perhaps a friendship has ended in an argument, or maybe it has just slowly evaporated. And so I am left with a sense of hollowness, anger and disappointment.

These 'loses' take various shapes, but they all result in my diminution, my becoming smaller.

The natural tendency is (I suspect) to interpret these loses as weakness and failure on our part; something we could have avoided if we had been stronger.

However there is a different way to view these moments. These are the 'desert' times; times of stripping-away. They leave us emotionally naked and vulnerable, yearning for protection. And yet perhaps these are the very times when we might come closer to God, when we cast ourselves upon God because there is really nothing else we can do.

It may be that these ‘desert’ times provide for us surprising springs of grace. The weak and lonely times become the times of strength and solitude. A time of loss might just become the moment for growth in God.

“And the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness and he was tempted for forty days ... He was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after him”. (Mark 1 12:13)

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