As I have commented on before, my favorite Amy Grant album was one that she has largely disowned, “Behind The Eyes.” Recorded during a particularly tough period in her life, namely her divorce, the album features a lot of melancholy and reflective songs . Even so, the album has some upbeat songs that have a realistic but optimistic view of life, and it is by far the most consistently enjoyable of her albums to me, as most of her albums strike me as far too cheery. One of the more uplifting songs from the album is a song about her steadfast loyalty as a friend called, unsurprisingly, “I Will Be Your Friend.” In this song Amy Grant sings about her steadfast loyalty to her friend no matter how bad times get. One wonders which friend she was talking about, and wonders if she would have increased her reputation had she shown the same steadfast loyalty to her first husband. At any rate, the song itself shows a nobility to friendship in a pop song that is worthwhile. We tend to see plenty of love songs related to romantic love, and some songs relating to the love of family, and it is nice to see a broader conception of love that includes fierce loyalty in friendship . At least it is something I appreciate.
Yesterday at services, one of the hymns we sang was one I have sung since my youth. The hymn is based on Psalm 22 and bears in its lyrics some marked similarities to a hymn from the Scottish Psalter of 1872 with lyrics like: “For who but God should be adored; Who but our God can us befriend? / Who is a rock besides the Lord; Who else is able to defend?” This was a particularly fitting hymn since the subject of the sermon yesterday involved a discussion about being friends with God. The sermon was a very good one, discussing the various standards that one would have to meet in order to be God’s friend. And we know that David was himself a very good and loyal friend, especially with Jonathan, and yet he sings here wondering who we can befriend other than God. This is worth pondering about and reflecting on.
First of all, we know that David was a loyal friend, from the pages of scripture. David and Jonathan certainly were loyal to each other, and David’s loyalty to Jonathan continued after his death. For example, let us read briefly what is recorded of David concerning the kindness he wishes to do to Jonathan’s family after his death in 2 Samuel 9:1-8: “Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David; and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I amyour servant.” The king said, “Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” And Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet.” So the king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar.” Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!” David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?””
This particular story helps us get a sense of what David asked when he wondered if he could befriend someone other than God, despite being recognized as a good friend. There is a great deal of talk in Christian circles about our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationship to other people, language which springs from the discussion of the two Great Commandments to love God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, laws which encapsulate the entirety of the law and the prophets. The sad story of the prophets, it should be noted, is largely a telling of the consequences for the violation of these two principles and the misery that would result to Israel and other nations for a refusal to turn one’s heart to obedience towards God and concern and justice for other people.
The Bible suggests repeatedly that it is impossible to consider oneself a friend of God unless one is loving in one’s relationship with other people. Witness, for example, what John said in 1 John 4:20: “ If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Here we see that the vertical direction of love towards God is dependent on the horizontal direction. If we cannot love those created in God’s image, we cannot love God. This is rather sobering, since our age is not a particularly loving age no matter what nation or institution we are a part of. Likewise, Jesus Christ had some sobering words about what it meant to love Him in Matthew 25:41-46: ““Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”” We show love for God and Jesus Christ in large part by the love that we show to other people created in His image.
Let us ponder the implications of that. When we show ourselves to be loyal and kindly and loving and generous friends with other people, we are becoming friendly to God at the same time. The laws of God prohibit the sort of things that kill friendship–envy, treachery, dishonesty, violence, exploitation, dishonor, and the like. Likewise, when we develop the qualities that God desires–justice, mercy, kindness–we become the sort of people that make good friends for other people. Ultimately speaking, if we are truly right with other people, we will act in ways that make us right with God, and if we are truly right with God, we will act in ways that make us appreciated by other people. To be sure, there may be aspects of our belief system that others disagree with, but they will find us to be honorable and trustworthy people who can be counted on to be good friends and neighbors and coworkers, whatever they think of our beliefs. Can such things be said about us?
 See, for example:
 See, for example: