Thursday, July 22, 2010

to the descendant of Abraham

"For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham." (Hebrews 2:16)

The comment in Hebrews 2:16 strenghtens the notion of who qualifies as the recipient of Christ's help, and comes on the tail end of the prededing discussion that relates to His incarnation. The structure can be broken down as follows:

1) Jesus was made "lower than the angels" so that He might "by the grace of God [...] taste death for everyone" (2:9-10)
2) Jesus refers to redeemed humanity ("those who are sanctified") as His "brethren" since He (the one "who sanctifies") shares in our (i.e., humanity's + God incarnate's) common origin (2:11-13)
3) Therefore, Jesus "partook" of human flesh & blood so that He might "through death [...] render powerless [...] the devil" and liberate humanity from the fear of death that enslaves us (2:14-15)

This short passage referenced above (Hebrews 2:9-15) can perhaps be viewed as an argument, with the first two points being premises and the third point serving as the conclusion. Taken as such, we can view verse 16 as further expounding upon and clarifying the conclusion of this single "argument." In it, we find a significant element as to not only the purpose of the incarnation, but also its scope (in terms of who Jesus came to "help"). The author makes plain that the work of Christ does not primarily pertain to the angelic hosts, but instead applies "to the descendant of Abraham." This brings us to a question that must be answered properly if we are to understand not only this passage, but, more broadly, God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Namely, this question is, Who is "the descendant of Abraham"? There is, first, a sense in which this phrase narrowly refers to those who may rightfully claim physical (i.e., biological) lineage, and Scripture abounds with such usage. But this scope is broadened to make available universal application by highlighting Him to whom Paul refers as the "seed" of Abraham. That is, Jesus Christ has enabled descendancy in Himself as being the one in whom the fulness of the promise to Abraham would be realized. In other words in Abraham through Christ "all the nations of the earth will be blessed" (Galatians 3:8-9; Genesis 12:1-3). Speaking to the Galatians regarding the "blessing of Abraham" that "in Christ Jesus" would "come to the Gentiles," he writes:

"Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as referring to many, but rather to one, 'And to your seed,' that is, Christ [...] For you are all sons [and daughters] of God through faith in Christ Jesus [...] And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise." (3:16, 26, 29)

Therefore, we find that when taken as a coherent whole, Scripture gives witness to the centrality of Jesus Christ as the key figure through whom the Abrahamic blessing would be bestowed upon all of humanity. Yet, this does not mean that all are automatically "descendants of Abraham" by virtue of being human. Rather, a crucial restriction still holds; Christ fulfills the biological requirement, and we must be in Him in order for the promise to extend to and be realized in us. We are united to "Abraham, the believer" through faith in Christ and, consequently, share in the same inheritance by virtue of Christ and being found in Him (Galatians 3:9).
The extension of this phrase to all of humanity (that is, available to all, but applicable to those who believe) concords with what we have seen so far in this portion of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The whole of humanity has already been in focus prior to this: Christ became "lower than the angels" (i.e., human) so that "He might taste death for everyone" (Hebrews 2:9), "He who sanctifies" shares a common origin with "those who are sanctified" (2:11), and He partakes of "flesh and blood", which is a unifying factor for all of humanity. Thus, it is not surprising that the author in verse 16 makes a distinction between two broad types of entities in the created realm, that is, between the recipeints of Jesus' help and angels (as opposed to, say, making a distinction solely among human persons). The implication must be that the phrase "desendants of Abraham" be taken in broad scope.
St. John Chrsysostom (ad 347-407), Archbishop of Constantinople, expands on this theme in one of the earliest "commentaries" on Hebrews that exists in church history. In his 5th homily on the Epistle, Chrysostom preaches on the nature of Christ's pursuit of humanity by "taking hold" of our flesh and blood, and taking it upon Himself. This pursuit we ought, as believers, to wonder at in amazement if indeed we realize the humility and condescension that characterizes the incarnation of Jesus Christ who suffers everything in order to make us His own. Chrysostom writes that the author (whome he views as Paul):

"[W]ishing to show the great kindness of God towards man, and the Love which He had for the human race, after saying: 'Forasmuch then as the children were partakers of blood and flesh, He also Himself likewise took part of the same' (c. v. 14) — follows up the subject in this passage. For do not regard lightly what is spoken, nor think this merely a slight [matter], His taking on Him our flesh. He granted not this to Angels; 'For verily He taketh not hold of Angels, but of the seed of Abraham.' What is it that he saith? He took not on Him an Angel’s nature, but man’s. But what is 'He taketh hold of'? He did not (he means) grasp that nature, which belongs to Angels, but ours. But why did he not say, 'He took on Him,' but [instead] used this expression, 'He taketh hold of'? It is derived from the figure of persons pursuing those who turn away from them, and doing everything to overtake them as they flee, and to take hold of them as they are bounding away. For when human nature was fleeing from Him, and fleeing far away (for we 'were far off' — Eph. ii. 13), He pursued after and overtook us. He showed that He has done this only out of kindness, and love, and tender care. As then when he saith, 'Are [the angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation' (c. i. 14) — he shows His extreme interest in behalf of human nature, and that God makes great account of it, so also in this place he sets it forth much more by a comparison, for he says, 'He taketh not hold of angels.' For in very deed it is a great and a wonderful thing, and full of amazement that our flesh should sit on high, and be adored by Angels and Archangels, by the Cherubim and the Seraphim. For myself having oftentimes thought upon this, I am amazed at it, and imagine to myself great things concerning the human race. For I see that the introductions are great and splendid, and that God has great zeal on behalf of our nature." (Homily V, I Schaff 2004:388)

Since Christ uniquely pursued humanity and "took hold" of our nature, we, in return, inhabit a unique position from which to praise God, offering Him thanksgiving as the recipients of His redemption through the God-man, Jesus Christ. About 1400 years later, John Newton (ad 1725-1807) would write a hymn touching upon this same theme, which still exhorts and encourages us today to uniquely worship the Lamb who was slain for both who He is and what He has done, "for our sake and for our salvation":

Now let us join with hearts and tongues,
And emulate the angels’ songs;
Yea, sinners may address their King
In songs that angels cannot sing.

They praise the Lamb Who once was slain,
But we can add a higher strain;
Not only say, “He suffered thus,”
But that He suffered all for us.

When angels by transgression fell,
Justice consigned them all to hell;
But mercy formed a wondrous plan,
To save and honor fallen man.

Jesus, who passed the angels by,
Assumed our flesh to bleed and die;
And still He makes it His abode,
As man, He fills the throne of God.

Our next of kin, our Brother now,
Is He to Whom the angels bow;
They join with us to praise His Name,
But we the nearest interest claim.

But ah! how faint our praises rise!
Sure, ’tis the wonder of the skies;
That we, who share His richest love,
So cold and unconcerned should prove.

O glorious hour, it comes with speed
When we from sin and darkness freed,
Shall see the God Who died for man,
And praise Him more than angels can
(Now Let Us Join with Hearts and Tongues, from Olney Hymns [written together with William Cowper])

May we join with the saints and angels in that wonderful activity which will forever and willingly occupy our attention and pervade all of our being - praise to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the eternal glory of the Triune God.
Schaff, Philip (Ed.). (2004). Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Volume 14, Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint John and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. (Original work published 1889)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

the priesthood of all believers (de incarnatione, pt. 3/3)

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

If you've been following along with previous posts (or if you just read this post's title), you've noted that this is the third and closing comments de incarnatione[1] ("on the incarnation") of Jesus as mentioned in Hebrews 2:14-15. Previously, we discussed a holistic approach to the Person and work of Christ in a way that unites, for example, the incarnation and its purpose to His passion, death, and resurrection. In the second post in this "series," we looked at the incarnation from the aspect of the kenosis, and the humility with which Jesus "emptied Himself" in order to become part of creation by entering into humanity as one of humanity, so that He might voluntarily offer Himself as the sacrifice for the life of the world (Philippians 2:7). In each of these, we (hopefully) retained the theme present in Hebrews 2:14-15, wherein it is evident that Jesus, to use St. John's language, "tabernacled" among us so that "through death" He might conquer death (and him who had "power of death") in order to set humanity free and grant us life in Him (John 1:14; Hebrews 2:14-15). In this third and final post, I would like to take a slightly different approach to discussing the incarnation while continuing to expound upon this latter theme, though in a somewhat indirect manner.
What I would like to do is consider the incarnation in light of Alexander Schmemann's argument(s) set forth in For the Life of the World in order to view part of humankind's transformative restoration by Christ Himself with regard to His becoming man in order to conquer death and hell. Before I delve into this topic, I feel obligated to offer some type of explanation for my motive, as well as a disclaimer. First, I was introduced to this particular book (and to Schmemann, in general) by and Orthodox friend of mine who, along with me and another friend, started an informal book club for the summer. We each selected texts to bring to the table, and this was his. In my opinion, this is excellent reading regardless of one's theological standpoints. This, then, brings me to my disclaimer: I am not Orthodox, nor am I attempting to "represent" Orthodoxy. In fact, I will most likely misrepresent Orthodoxy, since I will be taking what I see as true from this book and applying it within a Protestant perspective, and one that does not view the traditional liturgy as either (necessarily) essential for the Christian life or as the primary means by which we realize communion with Christ (or, more properly, the means by which Christ realizes communion with us in light of His incarnation,death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven). Consequently, though this is not my intention, I may disappoint the Orthodox reader by applying Schmemman's arguments to a broader scope to be realized outside of the liturgy, since I am going against his argument in this respect. Additionally, I may or may not disappoint Protestants because of the emphasis on Orthodoxy. Still, I hope that the reader will find value in this discussion despite these potential weaknesses. If anything, may the reader at least grant that I am being honest and transparent in my own biases. With that, I now turn to Schmemann's text, knowing that I cannot do it full justice. Still, perhaps the reader will be drawn to the source.
The constant theme that resonates through For the Life of the World is that modern Christians have uncritically assumed a reductionist framework of "religion" that forces us toward one of two options: either the spiritual/sacred/supernatural or the material/profane/natural. Yet, Schmemann urges us to consider that this is ultimately both a false dichotomy and a false dilemma. To stress this, he introduces us to a concept that may seem cliche to us now, namely, that "Man is what he eats" (Schmemman 1977:14). Schmemann essentially considers this view to be biblically grounded:

"But the Bible, we have seen, also begins with man as a hungry being, with the man who is that which he eats. The perspective, however, is wholly different [than that of material and spiritual opposition], for nowhere in the Bible do we find the dichotomies which for us are the self-evident framework of all approaches to religion. In the Bible the food that man eats, the world of which he must partake in order to live, is given to him by God, and it is given as communion with God. The world as man's food is not something 'material' and limited to material functions, thus different from, and opposed to, the specifically 'spiritual' functions by which man is related to God. All that exists is God's gift to man, to make man's life communion with God. It is divine love made food, made life for man. God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation: 'O taste and see that the Lord is good.'" (14)

Additionally, man is not to find the satisfaction for his hunger in the world as an end to itself (as secularism might advocate), but instead humanity at its core is worshipful: "'Homo sapiens,' 'homo faber'...yes, but, first of all, 'homo adorans.' The first, the basic definition of man is that he is the priest" (15). Humanity has an inherent need to worship God in order to know "the meaning of the thirst and hunger that constitutes his life." God gives, in a sense, the world to humanity, and humanity, in their proper role, offers it to God as a eucharistic sacrament.
What purpose does the incarnation of Christ have to do with all of this? In order to understand this aspect, we must first realize that we live in a fallen world, marred by the devastating consequences of sin, for "the wages of sin is death" (17; see Romans 6:23a). Significantly, though, for Schmemann disobedience is not itself the principal characteristic of the fall and cause of our great loss. Instead, humankind rejects love because it is "not easy" (16). That is, "Man has loved the world as an end in itself and not as transparent to God," and thus we "experience the world as opaque," resulting in a non-eucharistic life that does not return God's love in thanksgiving. Since we treated the world itself as sufficiently telic, we lose the sense of depending on the world in order "to be transformed constantly into communion with God in whom is in all life" (17). Schmemann continues,

"Man was to be the priest of a eucharist, offering the world to God, and in this offering he was to receive the gift of life. But in the fallen world man does not have the priestly power to do this. His dependence on the world becomes a closed circuit, and his love is deviated from its true direction [...] When we see the world as an end in itself, everything becomes itself a value and consequently loses all value, because only in God is found the meaning (value) of everything, and the world is meaningful only when it is the 'sacrament' of God's presence [...] For 'the wages of sin is death.' The life man chose was only the appearance of life. God showed him that he himself had decided to eat bread in a way that would simply return him to the ground from which both he and the bread had been taken: 'For dust thou art and into dust shalt thou return.' Man lost the euharistic life, he lost the life of life itself, the power to transform it into Life. He ceased to be the priest of the world and became its slave."

As a result of humanity's choice to not see God as all in all, which is a significant and crowning purpose of Christ's work (see 1 Corinthians 15:28), humanity chose a distorted "appearance of life" that resulted in death. And this death inhibits us from, as Schmemann puts it, fulfilling the priestly role for which we as homo adorans were created.
This state of death and need, of helplessness and failure on our part, is exactly what makes necessary the incarnation of the God-man, Jesus Christ. With all that we have said in mind, we are now prepared to return once again to our text in Hebrews:

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Jesus overcomes our despairing state and fulfills, through complete and eternal perfection, the eucharistic and priestly offering that we cannot. While we chose not to return God's love, Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, indeed returned God's love (see John 3:35; 5:20; 14:31a; 17:26) in pure obedience, and so has seated "at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3). In the context of our discussion, one element that Jesus achieves for us by partaking of "flesh and blood" in order to conquer death and the devil so as to set us free from our "slavery" is a transformation by which he redeems us to be a "holy priestood." So, St. Peter writes, "you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5). And how do we enter into this priesthood? On what or whom is our priesthood established? Peter deliberately notes prior to this verse that it is in "coming to Him," that is, to Jesus, that we are "built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (2:4a, 5, emphasis added).
It is, therefore, exclusively in Christ that we encounter the fulness of life as we now see everything as a means of communion with God as not only our hearts but all of our beings overflow with eucharistic thanksgiving to God. Not surprisingly, then, St. Paul encourages the believers in Ephesus that they be "filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks (eucharisteo) for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:19-20, emphasis added; see also Colossians 3:15-16).
Let me close by reintroducing one final thought. Those that are familiar with the passage referred to in 1 Peter will note that it, too, is introduced by the theme of humanity's hunger which Schmemann addresses. For, Peter writes, "long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord" (1 Peter 2:2-3, emphasis added). The wording is quite reminiscent of Schmemann's invocation of the psalms wherein we are given the invitation to "taste and see that the LORD is good" (Psalm 34:8). And, I hope that I will not be doing injustice to the text (for I really do not believe that what I am about to say regarding the play on words was necessarily intentional from the writer's standpoint) by noting that Christ "partook" of our "flesh and blood" (what we as human's commonly share) so that He might "taste" death on our behalf and "through death" conquer it. So, it is in Him that we find satiation for our want of food. For, He offers us to "taste" of His body and blood and "see" that the LORD is indeed very good. So Jesus extends an offer to find life in Him (note the incarnational references in this text!):

"I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst [...] I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh [...] Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, will also live because of Me." (John 6: 35, 51-57)

"O taste and see that the LORD is good!"
[1] The title for this brief series alludes to a (and perhaps the) foundational work by St. Athanasius in the 4th century entitled De Incarnatione Verbi Dei ('On the Incarnation of the Word of God'). This is included in Schaff's famous volumes on the Church Fathers, but an online version (from a different translator) can be accessed here.

Schmemann, Alexander. (1973). For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy, 2nd Ed. Crestwood, NY: St. Valadimir's Seminary Press. (Original work published 1963)

Friday, July 9, 2010

the form of a servant (de incarnatione, pt. 2/3)

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Given the holistic approach/emphasis we just discussed to the Person and work of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, we are better equipped to understand the goal of the incarnation mentioned in Hebrews 2:14 (the initial discussion can be found here). Namely, Jesus uniquely entered into humanity by partaking of our common and shared heritage, being made of flesh and blood, and He did so (in part) with the goal of liberating us from the fear of death that debilitatingly enslaves us and destroys our communion/fellowship with God. And He did so by becoming incarnate, by becoming fully human, so that He might conquer death through death to remain ever victorious in His resurrection and ascension. Yet, in this singular event of the incarnation, we witness unmatched humility as we realize that one of the uncreated Persons of the infinite and eternal Triune Godhead did indeed stoop so low as to, "for our sake and for our salvation", become created, inhabiting finitude and mortality, though this was in no way to the depreciation of His divinity. One of the most beautiful images of this condescension and humility is found in John 13. Jesus is with His disciples (including His betrayer, Judas) sharing their final meal together before He inaugurates the New Covenant with His own body and blood:

"Now, before the Feast of Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them until the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded." (John 13:1-5)

This manifestation of servitude is a true expression of the essence of the humility and meekness that marks a key element in the doctrine of the incarnation and Self-voluntary death of Christ, who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). And this example has become, or should become, our expectation, as it is this servanthood to which we are called (see John 13:13-17). Similarly, we find an exhortation to follow Christ's humble example in Paul's letter to the Philippians:

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)

Upon what authority is this exhortation given? Is it merely the authority of the Apostle Paul? No, for its authoritativenes (and immediacy for our own lives) is founded upon the very principles of the incarnation and voluntary Self-offering of our great and perfect example embodied in human flesh, Jesus Christ, which are mentioned in Hebrews 2:14-15. Accordingly, Paul continues his exhortation by saying:

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8, emphasis added)

Again, "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). This service is evidenced by Jesus' partaking of that which we humans share - flesh and blood - in holy condescension, with the goal that He would definitively trample down death by death in order to raise us to new life. This is the "attitude," as Paul puts it, that God desires to be in us through the power of His risen Son who leads us in perfect humility.

Friday, July 2, 2010

under the tutelage of a toddler

Just a few days ago, while at the house of our friends, I received two brief but meaningful lessons from a toddler who was indirectly tutoring me on the substance of life.

Lesson #1
He (a 3-year old), his father, and I were sitting at a table munching on popcorn. I asked him something along the lines of, "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you choose to go?" Without hesitation - seriously, there was no need for contemplation of his answer! - he responds with the utmost excitement and sobriety, extending his hand upward as far as he can stretch, smiling big as he responds, "I would go straight to heaven and be with Jesus!" His father gleams with pride (what Christian father wouldn't?) and I offer up a high-five for such a great answer.
But I'm a bit stubborn and, although I appreciated the response, I wondered if perhaps he had misunderstood or missed the point of what I was really asking. In order to disambiguate my request, I change the wording a bit, saying, "But if you had to choose somewhere on earth, where would you go?" (this time I really emphasized the phrase "on earth"). Yet, the boy retorts - again with no need for contemplation - "I want to die so that Jesus can bring me to where He is!"
So, as it turned out, it was I who missed the point of what I was really asking, because my question was laden with assumptions about the limitations of our desires and expectations. But this child knew no such limitations, and was only aware of the fulness of reality - life in Christ. The implicit limitations I had set were revealed in my conceptualization of "world" and supposedly feasable "places to go." My question also illuminated a potential difference in emphasis between myself (as an "adult") and my friends' son. That is, while it is not wrong to enjoy this world and its beauty as the creation of God, my question was somewhat related to a list of "places one hopes to go before they die." But this child's response was more related to "the ultimate goal of life," surpassing life on this earth and all its places. I was focused on the world that is; he was fixed on the world to come. I was focused on remaining; he was fixed upon ascending. And, furthermore, he was crucially fixed upon the principal Person from which all life derives, both in this world and the next, Jesus Christ.

Lesson #2
At another point in our "table talk" (if I may reference Luther here) that turned into a form of pedagogy was when our friends' son began to list his "friends" that live nearby. To my surprise and enjoyment, he mentioned our 10-month old son first, along with several other kids. The salient point that drew my attention was how quick this child was to deem others his friends, as if this was the most simple, basic and default position. And, not only that, it was a meaningful relationship to be cherished. It stood out to me because it contrasted with how readily adults, on the other hand, are quick to label others as not being friends, or worse, being enemies. Our sons are more than two years apart in age (which, in terms of proportion of their respective ages, is quite a lot!). My son doesn't even talk yet. They've gotten to spend time and play together in only a handful of instances. Yet, our son is the friend of another. And so it should be.
This contrast between the aforementioned child mindset and the adult one parallels in some ways the mindset of our Lord Jesus Christ over and above that which humanity displays. All too often, even as Christians, we construct a categorical distinction between those that are "friends" as opposed to those who are "enemies" in order to justify the respective actions that we have towards individuals in each group. But, in the well-known Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages and instructs us to "love [our] enemies, and pray for those who persecute [us]" (Matthew 5:44; see also Luke 6:27, 35). The action to all of humanity, our action to all of humanity, regardless of how we perceive them or how they position themselves in relation to us, is to be one of love, so that we in Christ fulfill the greatest of the commandments:

"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

To reinforce this notion, we need only but look to the example of Christ Himself, in his Person and work(s), who went to the furthest extremes - laying down His own life - in order to call us friends, who were His enemies. That is, He does not seek any to be or become His enemies (though some may choose to become such, against His desire by virtue of our free will); rather, He seeks His enemies to become and be His friends:

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us [...] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Romans 5:8, 10)

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you My friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you." (John 15:13-16)