God—Friend or Foe?
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”
1 John 4.18–19 (NKJV)
How would you answer? For many the answer is ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure.’ But, when we think about it, many would have a mental picture of a stern, unforgiving, judgmental God.
For too many God means ‘Thou shall not….’ That and the concept that God is always focused on sin. He’s got this place called ‘hell’ reserved for sinners. Others simply wouldn’t think about it; God simply isn’t in their thoughts. It’s not fashionable to be a Christian, so people dismiss even the idea of a God. That is, until some crisis erupts, some critical situation affecting them or their loved ones. Then people pray in the hope that God might hear and answer. But does he? Is God a friend or a foe?
A friend is someone we trust and rely on, someone who has our best interests at heart; whereas a foe is someone we regard with hostility and suspicion, someone who seeks to damage or destroy us, someone to be afraid of. A friend gives us the benefit of the doubt, looks for the best in us. A foe always judges us in the most harsh and unforgiving way.
So how do we answer our question? The Bible that says that God is love, and surely that is associated with friendship (1 John 4.16). But what about where the Bible says “thou shalt not,” or talks about sin? Is the answer that God is judging us and therefore must be our foe?
Think about it: if you’ve ever been in court you don’t think of the judge as a friend do you? Suppose it’s a serious charge, murder or some offence leading to a severe punishment? You’re guilty and expect to pay the price. You see no way out, but just before the judge sentences you, a friend steps in and says, “I’ll stand in his place and take his punishment.” So you’re free while your friend pays the price. Wouldn’t you regard that person as a real friend who must love you deeply? God, in the person of Jesus, has done just that for you. Wouldn’t that make him your friend?
Too many Christians focus on sin and the penalty of sin, which is death, but forget to focus on the fact that the penalty has been paid for us all. We all make mistakes and do or think things we shouldn’t. In Christian terms these wrong thoughts or actions are called sins. But our sins are forgiven and we don’t have to pay the penalty because our friend has paid it for us. Around 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ was crucified to pay that penalty in our place—the supreme act of love for each and every one.
So the answer to our question is that God is our friend in a way that is beyond comprehension.
Father, help us to see you in the right way, as a friend and not a foe, understanding the incredible love that underpins the human life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Study by Keith Hartrick
Grace Communion – Leeds
Garden Village Welfare Association Community Centre
Local Congregational Contact: