is becoming God's friend."
—St. Gregory of Nyssa (c.335-c.395)
The Very Rev. William Willoughby III offers the following reflection on how our relationship with God should show in our lives in the bulletin of the church he serves, St. Paul the Apostle in Savannah:
Isaiah gives another perspective from which to consider our relationship with God. The Prophet speaks of God as our spouse. We hear that God's relationship to us is like a groom to a bride. God's love for us is so intense; God's delight in us is so complete, that the only metaphor that works for the prophet is that of a newly married couple. Daring imagery! It worked for the early church; it was an image that completely described the relationship which they discovered in coming to terms with the experience of Jesus' Resurrection. The New Testament is full of allusions that speak of Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as His bride. Too often in our fear of other and self we forget that God's love for us is so powerful that it is God's love which is driving the recreation of the Cosmos and that it is God's desire to rejoice over us and our place in God's vision.
The intimacy of this relationship proclaimed by Isaiah and revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ demands a public expression. It is my experience that the best marriages are those in which the spouses are first and foremost friends. Friendship by its very nature can not be secret, yet the belief persists in our culture that one can be a secret friend of God. Too many of God's children fail to participate in the relationship that is ours through Jesus Christ in a way that gives any indication of God's life giving nature. Too often the worship, fellowship and witness of the Body of Christ becomes a means of refueling or private encouragement that seems to fade into the background when examined or confronted with the greater context of life.
Friendship with Jesus is costly; both inside and outside the community we call Church. It demands that we walk unashamedly with our Lord through hostile territory and beyond. It means standing with friends in time of need and sharing their pain. It means learning the vocabulary of faith, hope and love so that we can speak with our hearts in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, which most assuredly comes through unruly relationships. Isaiah's vision, which was so heartily embraced by the early Church, can enable us to celebrate God's desire to rejoice over all of us and be a friend in foul as well as fair weather.