You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. – John 15:14-15
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Christian faith is the relationship between the followers of the faith and the object of their worship, Jesus Christ. Most religions define the divine-human relationship as master/slave or king/subject. In such faith structures, followers are to obey without question, and it is their duty to satisfy their far-distant and unattainable gods by following rigid rules and offering sacrifices. While there is some master/slave, king/subject imagery in Christian teaching, Jesus reveals that through his incarnation, God has chosen to make himself fully known and fully available to his creation. Even more amazing is Jesus’ revelation that God has chosen not to lord over his people by executing harsh judgment, but instead to develop an intimate, loving relationship with them through a transforming friendship. “You are my friends,” Jesus says plainly, “I do not call you servants.”
What do we make of Jesus’ offer of friendship? To begin with, we need to be clear that Jesus is not seeking to become our buddy. It is not that God wants to pal around with us. The relationship is far more probing, powerful, and transforming that that. Jesus’ offer of friendship is an expression of grace and an indication that God has no interest in ruling over subjects but in loving them. God seeks to create a beloved community, through which the hearts of his people are transformed and the entire creation is redeemed.
Friendship on Jesus terms – a deep, challenging, transforming friendship – allows God’s grace to work within a follower, not simply to modify their behavior, but to change their very nature – so that they don’t merely obey God, they become like God. Purged of the all-consuming, narrow self-love, they now are free to love purely and offer genuine hospitality, generosity, and compassion.
It seems that God believes the world does not need judging or even correcting; it needs loving, redeeming, transforming, perfecting. The key to God’s movement of grace and truth is captured in Jesus’ words, “You are my friends.”
Lord Jesus, I want to be your friend, to spend time in your transforming presence, and to become more like you in thought, word, and deed. Amen.
A Bible-study devotional blog by Gorman Houston