John 15:15: ‘I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from the Father I have made known to you.’
What does it mean to be a ‘friend’ of God?
Jesus said, ‘You are my friends if you do what I command. This is my command: love each other’. I have often puzzled over the first part of this statement- ‘’You are my friends if you do what I command’ – because we don’t like being ordered around and being told what to do, and we resent it even more if it comes from our friends. In fact, it is hard to love someone who behaves in this way and if we choose to obey them it is more likely to be through fear rather than love. After all, it is actually considered rude and offensive to issue orders unless you are a Sergeant Major or someone in a position of authority and even then we prefer it if orders come across more in the manner of polite requests.
Jesus’ command is to love each other
However, we find a clue in the next part of the statement- ‘this is my command: love each other.‘ It is difficult, if not impossible, to love others if we are not truly loved ourselves. Jesus loved us before we loved Him. His sacrifice for us on the cross was an act of love and obedience to His Father, and when we accept Him as Saviour and Lord we do so as a response to His love. As we grow in our relationship with Him we experience His love more and more and we love Him in return. When we love someone we don’t want to hurt them – we want to do what pleases them, not out of fear but out of love.
How is it possible to do this?
John 15: 15 says: ‘Remain in my love’. But how?
It has to come from a place of intimacy
In part, I believe it is through spending time with God in prayer and allowing Him to speak to us through His Word, the Bible, allowing His words of truth and love to speak to us and change us as we absorb them and apply them to our lives, becoming more like Him so we obey Him from a place of love rather than duty. It has to come from a place of intimacy.
I remember when I was attending a particular church in the ‘90s, one of the leaders’ children belonged to a local football team who required him to play matches on Sundays, which would mean him missing church. Although his parents did not forbid him from playing, he came to his own decision and chose not to play in Sunday matches, even though that could have meant that he was dropped from the team. He said to his parents, ‘ I just can’t do it.. I want to be at church.’ His love for God led him to choose what would please God because he did not want anything to come between him and God. He wanted to preserve a precious relationship.
What is friendship?
One definition of friendship is this: ‘A state of enduring affection, esteem, intimacy and trust between two people’. (Britannica)
You may define friendship in your own way, but certainly, characteristics of friendship include having things in common, being like-minded and like-spirited, accepting each other’s shortcomings and valuing a person for who they are, being loyal and faithful. With a friend you can relax and be yourself without fear of harsh criticism or rejection. You can share what is on your heart without fear of being mocked. You can share your inmost thoughts and feelings, support each other, pray for and speak the truth to each other. You can have fun, laugh and cry together. It is a joy to spend time with a true friend!
Those who have received Jesus as Saviour and Lord and who seek to walk closely with Him will experience such delight and discover that it is this precious relationship which feeds our souls and enables us to live life to the full. It is the peace and trust we have in Him and the joy of being in His presence that gets us through the darkest of times and gives us comfort and strength.
God confides in those who fear Him
‘The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.’ (Psalm 25: 14).
I find it amazing and heart- warming to think that God actually likes to spend time with us, that He looks forward to the times when He knows we will sit in His presence and seek His face in prayer and that He confides in us. The Creator of the universe delights in us and longs for us to draw close to Him so that He can share what is on His heart. What an incredible privilege! It is for this that we were created, and it was to restore this relationship, broken by sin, that Jesus died for us.
Sharing His confidences is conditional upon our respect and submission to Him
But what about ‘if you do as I command’? Our human nature resists commands, but we must not forget that we have committed our lives to Him and therefore must submit to Him. He is God, all- holy and all-powerful and we must not lose that sense of awe and reverence. If we look more closely we see that ‘The Lord confides in those who fear Him..’ (Psalm 25:14), so sharing His confidences is conditional upon our respect and submission to Him, which is a choice we make.
Reverence comes from intimacy
We must obey His commands, but if we enjoy that close, intimate relationship with Him we will obey because we desire to please Him and work with Him to fulfil His plans and purposes for us and for the kingdom. His desires will become our desires too. Also, our trust in Him and complete confidence that his ways are perfect will fuel our desire and give us courage to obey. I believe this is a lifelong process, but He is gracious and patient with us and gives us his Holy Spirit to help us. Praise God.
Isaiah 35: 5-7 puts it beautifully:
‘The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.’ ( Isaiah 35:5-7)
It is indeed a storehouse of treasure that is available to us. How blessed we are.
This is my prayer for all who read this.
‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. This is to my Fathers’ glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.’ (John 15:)
Food for Thought
How do we remain in Him and let His words remain in us? At what point do we move from the status of servant to that of a friend? I would love to hear your thoughts.