INTRODUCTION TO BROTHERLY LOVE:
BECOMING THE FRIEND OF GOD
“And godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
// 2 Peter 1:7
The Father likes you. He likes you. Let that sink in! He likes you, and He isn't ashamed of it.
And Jesus likes you, too. In fact, it's because He likes you that He went to the cross. And the Holy Spirit? Well, He's giddy over you! He spins and shouts and rejoices over you!
You may object to this picture of God, thinking it too cavalier or unceremonious to characterize the Trinity in such a fashion. You may prefer a more austere, stoic, aloof and distanced God. The trouble with that picture is two-fold. Firstly, He isn't any of those things, despite His infamous reputation (which His enemy propagates in our minds). Secondly, that's not the God that Jesus revealed in the Gospels. Jesus partied with sinners. Jesus affirmed deviants and criminals. Jesus freed prostitutes and defended sullied women of disrepute. He did all this joyfully, with a heart filled to the brim with gladness. He did it because He liked them, and He likes you.
God the Father likes you. Jesus the Son has nothing but good things to say about you. The Holy Spirit celebrates every nanosecond of your existence.
If we're going to be a people of substance, if we're going to be a people that can bring change and contend for this world's transformation, if we're going to love our neighbor as ourselves, we have to come to grips with two realities. To be such a people, we have to live in godliness – having the heart He does. And second, to stay in godliness, we have to abide in His love, His phileo love – the love that says, "I like you. I'm your biggest fan. I feel nothing but tender, warm affection for you. I'm a Friend to you." We have to let God be our phileo neighbor if we are to love our neighbors with phileo. We have to let Him befriend us if we are to befriend sinners and make saints of them with His phileo love.
Such love, the love of a friend, is powerful enough to change the world. Jesus laid down His life for His friends – "Greater love [phileo] has no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends" [John 15:13]. And Jesus said that the Father Himself loves us with friendly affection, with phileo [John 16:27]. True godliness is to walk in His heart, but to stay there, it will take our befriending God. Or, put more rightly, letting Him befriend us!
Our whole purpose is to be called a friend of God, like Abraham was, for only then can we become a friend to sinners and offer to them both godliness and the faith of Abraham – a faith that will cause God to call them His friends, too.
The godliness He gives us has to matter, it has to change this world, and it will only change it if we go on to discover God as friend to all, sinners and saints alike. Godliness, without a vision of God's friendly heart, will ossify into self-righteousness and judgment of sin, and sinners; but phileo love, the love of a Friend, keeps our hearts soft and tender so that godliness, expressed through friendship to sinners, will actually transform them into a different people, into members of the holy nation and family of God – into saints, like He's made us.
Let's worship with friendship in mind. Let's worship because the Father sent His Son with a singularly earth-shattering message: "I am your Friend, and I only have peaceful goodwill in My heart toward you." The Spirit came to earth to establish us in the phileo love of the Godhead, to make that message live in our hearts so that we could turn and be friends to sinners and win friends for God.
Let the friendship of God take hold of your heart as we examine phileo love over these coming days. Let the words of the devotionals win you over as a friend of God.
// Samuel Nicolosi