Jesus himself valued friendship: his was a lonely path, but he surely took some comfort in his closest friends, even when they misunderstood him; even, indeed, when they denied and deserted him. In John 15 he says to them, 'I do not call you servants any longer...Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.' Paul makes a startling claim in Romans 5: 'We were God's enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son.' It astonishes me that God would want such creatures as us to be his friends, but apparently it is so. Again, in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes,'Our message is that God was making the whole human race his friends through Christ.'
Would I be considered unforgivably 'up myself' (as I recall my children saying scornfully as teenagers) if I quoted from one of my own books on the subject? Well, I shall risk it. One character says to another, 'Wherever you are, wherever I am, whatever is happening, we will always care for and trust one another. I feel almost as certain of this as that I will one day open my eyes in heaven.'
There are many kinds of friendship, of course: many depths, many ways of expressing the relationship; but it seems to me that we as members of ACW have a unique privilege and opportunity. We may live far apart, have little in common in the way of interests, experience, background, age, worship styles, denomination; but we have two things in common which I assume are extremely important to us all. I have noted over the last few years an increase in mutual sharing of concerns and prayerful support. Times of getting together - at conferences, writers' days, weekends - encourage the formation of new friendships and the development of existing ones. We should celebrate this, and always realise what a precious gift it is, at the same time keeping our antennae sensitive to those who are somehow on the margins. They too are God's friends.
Sue's latest novel 'A Vision of Locusts' was published by Instant Apostle in October.