If you have ever had a visitor come to stay in your home for a while, you know the kind of preparation it can take. Growing up in the Caribbean meant annual visits from relatives who had long ago migrated abroad, but would come visit on vacation in the summer months or occasionally to escape the harsh winters where they resided. Their visits would mean weeks of planning for all of the cleaning, gardening, painting, repairing, and purchasing that would ensue to ensure our guests were comfortable and had the best we could offer.
While they were on the island, we would make sure they were well-fed and entertained. As much as we loved their company, I would breathe a sigh of relief when they departed and the regular rhythm of life could resume.
Hospitality is important, but it can also be exhausting. If it does not cost you anything, then you probably are not too invested in it. Also, it is easier to be hospitable to people that we have a relationship with. I am far more excited making preparations for a close friend or favorite cousin than I would be for a stranger.
Principles of kindness, hospitality and friendship are ingrained in most of us from a young age, but how often do we think about demonstrating these towards God?
In Genesis 18, we find one of the most remarkable incidents in human history when the Lord and two angels in human form paid a visit to Abraham. It is notable that Abraham is called God’s friend THREE TIMES in scripture, including one time by God Himself (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). It makes sense to look at Abraham’s life and see how he lived out his friendship with God.
1. Drawing close through faith
“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 (NLT)
By nature, we are distant from God, and He can feel like a stranger or worse- an enemy. By faith, we must accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us and believe that we are forgiven and can experience the closest of friendships with God. For Abraham, it was a call to leave familiar surroundings for a land God would show him. In a way, this is our call too - to leave the comfortable places, habits, and relationships that separate us from God and follow where He leads.
2. Availability (Genesis 18:1-3)
Building a relationship takes time and friendship with God is no exception. Abraham was not too busy to offer his time when the heavenly guests passed by his tent. We live in a society that is always going. Between classes, work, meetings, and appointments, it can be a challenge to find a few quiet minutes. But no relationship can thrive on only a few stolen minutes together each week. Time for regularly reading, studying and memorizing scripture, for fellowship, has to be a set aside as a priority.
3. Hospitality (Genesis 18:4-8)
We want God to feel welcome in our lives and our homes. Abraham offered his guests the best he had - footwashing, rest, a hot meal- and then made himself available in case they wanted anything. Ask God for eagerness in knowing and serving Him. Friendship is a two-way street. We do not just want to think about what we can get out of this relationship but of how we can minister to God’s heart.
4. Listening (Genesis 18:9-22)
In this meeting, the Lord confirmed His promise of a son for Abraham. God has something to say to each of us, but we will only hear Him if we take the time to listen. Cultivate a taste for silence. Get alone with your Friend everyday and allow yourself to be still before Him. Ask God to speak to your heart and give Him the time to do so.
5. Transformation (Genesis 18:23-33)
God also revealed His plans to punish the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s heart was touched, and he beseeched God to spare them. As God’s friend, he knew that God did not take pleasure in judgement or destruction. God would ideally want them to be saved, and so did Abraham. Friends become like each other. We pick up one another’s habits and mannerisms, and sometimes, even likes and dislikes. A relationship with God will transform us into His image. We are most like God when we have a heart for others.
“ I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 (NLT)
God says to us what He said to His first disciples. We are His friends, and He wants to confide in us, to have the joy of closeness with us. This is the highest joy we can experience because we were created for connection with God.