“You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” John 15:14-15
There are two different kinds of relationship in mind here; that of a master and slave and that of friends. In the religions of the world the master and slave relationship prevails but that is not the case in true Christianity. Unfortunately there are many Christians who have a master and servant mindset with regard to their relationship with God. That kind of relationship will provoke concepts of serving to gain favour or some other kind of reward. In the work force we call these promotion and higher pay.
The relationship of servant and master does not require love or even friendship. It is a commercial relationship. A person serves another for what they can get out of it. If they are not getting what they want they will choose another master. So we see that the master and servant relationship does not require loyalty or sacrifice either.
Is this concept contrary to Jesus words in verse 14, “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you”? From this verse in isolation one may think that if they are an obedient servant that will make them a friend of Jesus. Indeed, that may be the very reward such a person desires. This is a wonderful desire but is it the way to obtain friendship of Jesus?
The nature of friendship is that of equals sharing their lives but how can God in the Person of Jesus Christ be considered an equal with a sinner?
On one occasions I was employed by a man who I considered a friend then – and still do. So far as being men before God we are equal but our roles within the organisation were very different. The same is true of my relationship with Jesus. He says that it is possible for us to be friends even though there is a great difference in our roles within His church. It is possible because of the incarnation. Jesus left His glory with the Father and took on humanity. In that, we are equally human. If not, then Jesus could never atone for our sin.
It is Jesus who declares that we can be friends with Him. It is not only possible but Jesus’ desire and that can been seen in His prayer in John 17 and especially verses 21-23.
The relationship of friends is very different to that of master and slave. Friends serve one another for what they can give not for what they can get. There is also love, involving sacrifice, and loyalty in friendship. Friends share the same interests and love being in company with each other.
Of course, among people there are degrees of friendship but as we read the broader context of this passage including Jesus’ prayer in chapter seventeen it is clear that Jesus desires that we have the most intimate of friendships with Him. As a friend of Jesus we will serve Him out of love and not out of duty or for some reward. As friends do, Jesus tells us His plans for the future. He warns us of what lies ahead so that we can allow Him to prepare us for them (cf. Genesis 18:17; James 2:23; John 16:13).