What a Friend

“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).

Finding Rest

“In returning and rest you shall be saved” (Isaiah 30:15)

All of the attributes that God has given to mankind have been corrupted in their application and use. Making alliances is one of them. Even very young children make informal alliances in order to feel safer. Some of these are, or may become, genuine friendships. The alliances we often call friendships will not stand the tests of adversity or affliction that life brings whereas genuine friendships will. “Fair weather” friends are alliances that collapse under the pressure of personal cost.

Like most nations of the world, Israel made alliances with other nations for reasons of safety and protection. They had been specifically commanded by the Lord not to make any alliance, especially with Egypt. Alliances may give the feeling of safety but history shows that they are unreliable. Egypt did not protect Israel from Babylon and was itself overrun. How many of the great alliances of old have lasted? Is there a person more than a few years old who has not been let down by a “fair weather” friend?

The medical world tells us that family and faithful friends are an extremely important element in the recovery of a patient. God has made us with the need of mutual support. He has also made us with the need of a friend who we know will remain faithful no matter the circumstance. In the hymn, “What a Friend we have in Jesus” we sing:

“Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

“Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

“In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
You will find a solace there.”

Further on in this chapter of Isaiah (vv 15-20) we have the Lord appealing to Israel as the father does in the parable of Jesus we call “the Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32). We see Him eagerly waiting, full of grace (vv 18, 19), for Israel to return and rest in Him (v 15). He has the same attitude toward people even today.

To whom do we go for advice and counsel (vv 1, 2)? The answer that most people would offer is that they go to the worldly experts. We want expert opinion but frequently expert opinion changes. It is most sad when people who call themselves Christians do not seek counsel or advice from the Lord (the only true “expert”) but seek it from the experts of this world.

As the father of the prodigal son waited, so the Lord is waiting to pour out His grace on all who call out to Him in faith. “He will be very gracious to you (vv 18, 19).” This is to say, His cup of grace is overflowing toward the one who comes to Him. He may have sent “the bread of adversity” and “the water of affliction” but only so as to bring us to the place where we return to Him to receive the outpouring of His love and grace.