Recently, I stumbled across this verse in my Bible and it really hit me hard:

"So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God." (Romans 5:11)

This verse struck me because in the Christian community we often talk about the character of God and our relationship with him. He is our creator, our Father, our protector, our judge, and the list goes on and on. But rarely do I hear the word that this verse so clearly states— friend.

I don't know about you, but it boggles my mind that we can call the Lord of the Universe, and the giver of life our friend. Even more crazy is that he wants to call us friend. He sent his son to die so that our sins could be forgiven, and our slates wiped clean, and so that we could be his friends. That is true love.

I think often we miss the whole point of salvation and Christianity. Often, I think many of us view our faith as burdens. We think about all the rules we are supposed to keep, and all the things we have to abstain from and easily believe that God is just one big party-pooper. However, we often forget that there is joy to be found in obedience, and the boundaries placed by God are not there to limit our fun but to increase our satisfaction and true joy. I'm sure we've all heard the comparison to God and our parents who gave us guidelines when we were children of where we could play or couldn't play but think about God as this verse dictates—a friend.

If I had a friend who began to excessively drink and go out into all hours of the night, not remembering what they did the next morning, I would begin to be worried. Even if they told me they were having the time of their life and it was so fun, I would still look at their actions as harmful, and pull them aside and say hey buddy, this doesn't look like it's going to lead to something fun but rather something quite dangerous. Friends look out for each other's backs, and often friends get the front row seats to see us mess up and fail, but they also get the joy of helping us back up and encouraging us on our path. Good friends make sure we make the best decisions and walk alongside us. And a good friend is a rare gift to have. How wonderful to have one that literally holds the universe in his hand?

Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Bible, is all about finding joy in obeying the word of God. I would expect the longest Psalm to be about something important, so maybe it would be about how God comforts us or about his saving grace and power—something easy and relevant. However, instead there are multiple stanzas that focus on rejoicing in regulations and hiding the word of God in your heart. The Psalm begins, "joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts" (verse 1-2). The Psalmist deeply believes that the joy of serving God is following his decrees, and that a life of praise for God is full of following his regulations—there is immense joy in the obedience.

I wonder how different the Christian community would look if we really believed that God was our friend. How different would our lives look if we really believed that the God of the universe, who holds the moon and stars in his hands desire friendship with us? No matter if we are the biggest screw-up or the biggest success, he sees us for our hearts and he wants to be friends with us, he wants to walk through life with us. How amazing would it be if instead of viewing reading the Bible as a mundane task or going to church a duty, we began to find joy in following God. Because following his word and his regulations wouldn't be boring to-do lists to trade in for eternity, and our debt for receiving salvation, but it would be the opportunities to get to know our Savior, to discover the character of our Father, and to deepen our friendship with the Most High.

I believe that those who profess Christ as Lord and Savior in their hearts will receive Heaven after earth, but those who know that He is their friend and confidant get a slice of Heaven on earth.