Jehovah—Your Acquaintance or Your Friend?
“JOHN, may I introduce you to my friend? This is—excuse me, what was the name again?”
Have you ever heard this kind of conversational faux pas? It provides an example of how some people misuse the word “friend.” In reality they mean only “acquaintance” or sometimes not even that. Being acquainted with Mr. Smith from across the street is one thing; being his friend is quite another.
One dictionary defines “acquaintance” as “a person with whom one has had some social contact but for whom one has no strong personal attachment.” It indicates “less familiarity, closeness, fellowship, and well-wishing than FRIEND.”
This lack of strong personal attachment helps explain why we often pay little attention to what is happening to acquaintances, while we are amiably involved in the lives of our friends. We share their joys and their sorrows, allowing them to touch us deeply. Of course, we must be careful not to let emotional involvement mislead us into meddling in their private affairs.—1 Peter 4:15.
Having a strong personal attachment to our friends also explains why we normally try to please them. If an acquaintance finds our conduct distasteful or improper, his displeasure is not so likely to move us to change. But a friend can exercise a powerful influence indeed, be it in matters of dress, conduct, or attitude.
As regards trust, affection, respect, and loyalty, friendship demands a higher degree of responsibility than acquaintanceship does. He who asks for friendship with, as it were, no strings attached, in reality wants only an acquaintance, not a friend. Close friends are happy to fulfill the responsibilities entailed by a strong personal attachment, realizing that these give them an opportunity to prove their friendship.
Friendship With God
As the Creator, Jehovah is humankind’s heavenly Father and deserves to be loved, obeyed, and respected. But he wants humans to do this because of a strong personal attachment, not simply out of a sense of duty. (Matthew 22:37) He also wants them to love him as a Friend. (Psalm 18:1) Since “he first loved us,” he himself has laid the perfect foundation for such a friendship.—1 John 4:19.
Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were acquainted with Jehovah. The question was: Would they accept his offer of friendship? Sad to say, they did not. Their selfishly grasping for independence from God suggested no feeling of strong personal attachment. Willing to accept the blessings of the friendship he was offering, they were unwilling to fulfill its responsibilities. It was as though they wanted to enjoy the comforts and security of their cozy Paradise home without being willing to pay the rent.
All of us, some to a greater degree than others, have inherited this unappreciative and independent spirit. (Genesis 8:21) Some young people, for example, have allowed their natural desire for independence to make them unappreciative of their parents. This has resulted in a breakdown of the most precious friendship that should exist between them and their parents throughout life. Sad as this is, however, a breakdown in our friendship with our heavenly Father is much more serious. In fact, it can be fatal!
Requirements for Friendship
Without trust, no relationship, be it with humans or with God, can last for long. The patriarch Abraham understood this, and that is why he repeatedly manifested implicit trust in God. Read Genesis 12:1-5 and Ge 22:1-18, and see two outstanding examples of his trust in Jehovah. Yes, “Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” That is why “he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’”—James 2:23.
A further requirement for friendship with God is meeting the obligations that this friendship entails. Because of our lowly position in relation to Jehovah, these obligations are logically much greater than they would be in a human friendship. They go beyond our wanting to please him in some things—as we would with a human friend. They include our wanting to please him in all things. Jesus, God’s Son and most intimate friend, showed this when he said of Jehovah: “I always do the things pleasing to him.”—John 8:29.
Thus, friendship with Jehovah, or with his Son, is not available on a no-strings-attached basis; it is dependent on our living up to the prerequisites for friendship that they have set. (See Psalm 15:1-5.) Jesus showed this plainly in conversation with his disciples. “You are my friends,” he told them, “if you do what I am commanding you.”—John 15:14.
Another requirement for friendship is open and frank communication. On the day of his death, Jesus told his faithful apostles: “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) In sharing his thoughts with his friends, Jesus was following the example of his heavenly Father, about whom Amos 3:7 says: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets.”
Is this not the normal thing among friends? We may feel no urge to share our experiences with Mr. Smith from across the street. And most assuredly we would not want to tell him our innermost thoughts and feelings. After all, he is only an acquaintance. But with our friends, why, often we can hardly wait to tell them such things!
It is likewise in our friendship with God. We can hardly wait to approach him in prayer, revealing to him our needs, our desires, and our innermost feelings. Of course, if communication is one-sided, friendship will soon die. So we must also be willing to let God talk to us. This we do by carefully listening to his written Word, meditating upon his counsel, and then applying it as best we can.
How Important to You Is Jehovah’s Friendship?
To help you answer this question, consider a special kind of human friendship. If you are a young person, perhaps you are interested in a friendship that could lead to marriage. Of course, you realize that just being acquainted with a prospective mate is hardly the proper basis for marriage. Acquaintanceship must first be turned into friendship. This friendship can then be developed and molded into a more intimate relationship that will ultimately form the proper basis for a happy marriage.
Now, consider. How much effort do most people put into developing this type of friendship? How much time and money do they spend in establishing and then maintaining it? How much time do they spend thinking about it? To what extent do they make plans—or show willingness to change plans—for the purpose of improving or maintaining this relationship?
Then ask yourself: ‘How does this compare with my efforts to develop friendship with my Creator or to improve and strengthen it? How much time am I spending in doing so? To what extent does friendship with Jehovah occupy my thoughts? To what extent am I making plans—or showing a willingness to change plans—for the purpose of improving and then maintaining this relationship?’
Young Christians should be fully aware that all human friendships, including the one that eventually leads to marriage, are second in importance to the friendship they need to have with their Creator. That is why they are urged at Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your young manhood.” Many are doing this by publicly serving as God’s ministers, an ever-increasing number of them as full-time preachers, or pioneers.
Despite the growing cynicism and irreligiousness around them, these boldly defend Jehovah when they hear false taunts and charges made against him. Is this not what Jehovah should rightfully be able to expect of his friends? Is this not what we would also expect of our friends? And would it not make our hearts rejoice when we discovered our friends doing it zealously and with conviction?—Compare Proverbs 27:11.
Yes, friendship with God—even as with humans—brings responsibilities that must be fulfilled if the friendship is to last. A person unwilling to accept these responsibilities, or unready to make a dedication to God and then to carry it out, may indeed be acquainted with Jehovah. He has yet to experience, however, the joys of having Him as a Friend.
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Abraham trusted God and therefore came to be called Jehovah’s friend