Servants and Friends
This is part 3 of our relationship series. It’s funny, initially I placed servants and friends together to cover more ground in this blog, so that this series wouldn’t drag on forever. Then the more I studied friendship and servanthood regarding God and the Bible, the more I realized that they intertwine. The scriptures that I want to discuss in this blog are John 15 and James 2. I will pull from other parts of the Bible as well, but this is where the largest part of my study took place. Once again, I highly recommend reading these chapters for yourself and asking God to reveal the truth to you on a personal level.
Alright, let’s take a look at the scripture. We will start with the words of Jesus.
John 15:9-17- “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
Before discussing our relationship with God as a friend we have to first look at how Jesus defines friendship.
What does Jesus say about friendship?
He tells his disciples that they have become friends because he is letting them in on the purpose of their mission. He also defines love as laying down one’s life for their friend. They are no longer servants who do as they are told simply because they are told to do something. They are friends who understand how their master thinks; they get to move based on God’s heart, not just in blind obedience. That’s a big deal if you ask me.
Essentially, when Jesus defines friendship he includes servanthood. The way that he does friendship is by humbling himself as a servant. That’s huge if we plan on being friends with his father. If we are going to call God our friend, we are saying that we are his servant. There isn’t any way to be a friend of God without serving him.
I believe that sometimes within our culture we call God a friend in order to bring ourselves up to his level. We feel like we are more important and it boosts our ego to call God our friend. That’s not at all where I want to be. We have to approach friendship with God with the humility of knowing that no matter what we do, we can’t give him anything that wasn’t first given to us. We bring nothing to the table other than obedience. We can love God with the love that he has given us, but if we get mad and decide to hold our love or obedience hostage, then we don’t understand friendship at all. I’m not saying that God will abandon us if we abandon him. It’s actually quite the opposite. He is the perfect picture of unconditional love. His humility doesn’t make sense in my natural mind, but I will do my best to explain it.
If we were to try to define our friendship with God using an example of human friendship, then we will fall short every time. Never-the-less, maybe this illustration will be helpful:
Imagine if we approached a human friendship with the type of motives that drive us to God. If I came to my friend and said: “I heard that you can help my life be better.” or “I have heard that you bless people and I would like to be your friend.” You would probably think there is no way that friendship will work out in the end. What God does is accept us even though our motives suck, and he loves us where we are at.
That’s the most humble thing I can think of; knowing that someone is trying to take advantage of you and loving them anyway. Like any good friend he won’t allow us to continue to in our current state. Unlike our earthly friendships that sometimes hinge on allowing each other to be happy instead of confronting things that will lead to destruction, God is the best friend you can have. He says: “Hey! That stuff will ruin your life. Here is a better way!” If we want to fulfill our role in the Heavenly friendship, then we must obey him. We must lay down our own evil desires, understanding that he knows more about life than we do.
To truly be God’s friend we have to have faith that he knows more than we do. We have to believe that he wants the best for us and be obedient. That leads me to the next passage of scripture.
James 2:14- 26- What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.
Abraham was called a friend of God because he believed Him. He had faith that God would fulfill the promise that he made. He didn’t lean on his own understanding.
This might seem to conflict with the fact that Jesus said that friends were allowed to see what the Master is doing, but if you look at it without the constraints of time, it makes a lot more sense. Just because I currently don’t know the reason for everything God does in my life, doesn’t mean that at some point I won’t understand. When we trust God we can often look back and realize that he knew better than we did, but we don’t always see it in the moment. Because I am his friend, I have the freedom to approach him to ask why, but He is under no obligation to explain himself to me. I trust him knowing that eventually my ignorance will fall away and I will understand why stuff happens. Sometimes that happens quickly, and other times it takes a while.
It’s important to realize that you can’t completely define God by any one example of a relationship or it becomes too constricting. He is our friend, but not apart from the other examples that the Bible uses to help us understand the relationship.
Jesus didn’t say that because we are friends, we are equals. It’s very important to always remember that. This isn’t an equal friendship where we have an equal voice. Because of our relationship as God’s friend we can ask him what he’s doing and he will allow us to partner with him. Be careful not to mistake this for equality. He is one hundred percent in charge. He is the King, and we are the workers. He is the Father and we are the children. Just like a son might be friends with his father, we can be friends with God; but the father is still above the son when it comes to the matters of the Kingdom.
To put all of this simply: We are friends of God through servanthood.
We may partner with him because he is graceful and humble. Our friendship with him isn’t like any of our friendships on earth. We can call him friend if it will help us to understand closeness with him, but we need to be careful that we don’t place ourselves at his right or his left. Instead we should always in-vision ourselves at his feet. We get to be on the winning side of an eternal battle because he made it so. He is the best friend that has ever existed.
We are his servants because he allows us to take part in this beautiful adventure of a life that he has created. As Christians we lay down our lives and pick up our crosses to follow him. We have been grafted in and we get to serve the King through obedience.
Are you a friend of God? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Next week we will discuss our relation to God as his creation.