The unsaved person is referred to by many descriptive terms in the Word of God. Lost. Blind. Dead. Sinner. The children of wrath. The children of disobedience. Alien. Stranger. Ungodly. Unrighteous. In one way or another, these describe the hopeless condition of mankind without Christ. Thank God that His marvelous salvation changes all of these. Found. Can now see. Alive in Him. Forgiven. A child of God. Brought nigh. Sanctified. Righteous. No wonder Paul could say, “Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person” (2Co 5:17 CEV).

But one of the truly stark terms to describe the relationship of lost men and women with their Creator is this one: enemy. This term is used a number of times (e.g., Rom 5:10; 8:7; Col 1:21), and the Bible is very clear as to what the enemies of God deserve and how they should be treated by the Holy. “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies” (Nah 1:2).[1]

This is not a pleasant situation in which to be. The terrible effects of our sin against Him, originating with our first parents and cascading through the millennia of human willfulness and disobedience, have steadily marched humanity away from God. And every one of us truly deserves the wrath of God of which Nahum writes.

However, into this dark morass of humanity came a Savior. The very Son and expression of God came here in perfect human form to bear our sins and voluntarily take our place in judgment, enduring it all for us. How would He describe us as He came amongst us? Knowing the despicable evil of our hearts, what terms (above) would He use for us?

In John 15, He first talks of His love for us. We, who essentially hated Him, were loved by Him long before He came to save us. But then He goes a bit further and calls us friends! “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends …. I have called you friends” (vv13-15).

Friends? How can anyone refer to his enemies as his friends? Such is the indescribable love of this Savior. As He was teaching His disciples the truths in that upper room, He made much of His love and care for them. He had shown them humble servanthood by washing their dirty feet, even ministering to the man who would betray Him. In John 11, He was “troubled” in body as He wept – sobbed – at the grave of His friend Lazarus. In John 12, He said, “Now is my soul troubled” (v27). Then in John 13, after He announced that He would be betrayed by a friend, He was “troubled in spirit” (v21). Facing the anguish and agony of Gethsemane, Gabbatha and Golgotha, the Savior was troubled (stirred, agitated) in body, soul and spirit. Yet such was His loving heart that, in John 14, knowing He would soon die and leave His men, He said, “Let not your heart be troubled” (v1). He calmed their upset hearts after they learned He would die and was going away by promising to come back personally for them. And as He talked to them of what lay ahead for Him, the death He would die and the suffering He would endure, He told these imperfect and sinful men that He was offering His life for His friends.

This concept is almost inconceivable. To be a friend of God? Martin Luther once said that one must know God as an enemy before one can know Him as a friend. Throughout the entire history of the OT, only Moses and Abraham were privileged to be called “the friend of God.” But such was the love of the Lord Jesus that He came to this scene of rebellion, facing enmity daily yet calling His men for whom He was about to die His friends.

This Savior is the fulfillment of the Proverb, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Since we have been saved, in how many times of despair and sadness, heartbreak and loneliness has this Friend drawn near and been everything to and for us? He has demonstrated without question His friendship to us by His death for us and His present life for us. We have all sung with true conviction in our hearts and souls, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” So how can we show our friendship to Him?

First of all, our “enemy” status has been forever erased. No longer are we at enmity with God. Like the returning prodigal, we would be pleased just to be His servants. But Jesus said, “[From now on] I call you not servants … but friends”; “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Joh 15:14,15). So, while His friendship to us is unconditional, our friendship to Him is conditional. We should display our love to Him by absolute obedience to whatever He asks us to do. He will always be a friend to us, but our choice whether or not to obey Him as Lord in our lives can affect our friendship with Him.

One way in which our friendship with Him is affected is our choosing friendship with this decaying and dying world. James, the Lord’s half-brother, wrote these startling words: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (4:4 ESV). Our relationship with this world is one of the biggest traps for our Christian character and testimony, along with our adversary, Satan, and our old, sinful nature. The great Apostle Paul lost a friend in this way. A co-worker named Demas left him, “having loved this present world” (2Ti 4:10).

Our most joyful and blessed lives are those lived in close companionship with the Savior. Since He has first chosen to rename His enemies as friends and has died to prove this claim, we should take every advantage of this new relationship, founded and fostered by His amazing grace. This is a gift bestowed upon us, we who have deserved it the very least. One of the best things to have in life is good friends. And in “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20), we have a Friend better than any on earth. Our Savior died for His enemies so that He could forever call us “my friends.”

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.