About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Friends Who Serve


In John 15: 14 and 15 Jesus said the following.  "You are my friends if you do what I command.  I know 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 my Father I have made known to you (NIV)."  If Jesus no longer called His disciples servants but friends, why did the Apostle Paul and the first generation of Christians view themselves as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ?  What about us?  Are we Jesus' friends or are we His servants?  A close look at this passage will provide the answer.


Our English word "servant" is translated from the Greek word "doulos" in this and other related New Testament passages.  "Doulos" means "a servant by choice, not by force or constraint".  Paul and the first generation of Christians would have understood serving Jesus to be a matter of their own free will even though they knew He was their friend. 


In his book entitled, "Last Chance At Peace", present day Jordanian King Abdullah made a striking comment concerning such dichotomies as we see in this passage.  Prior to being king, Abdullah's father was king.  When his father requested to see Abdullah, he would stand at attention until he was permitted to sit and relax.  Abdullah wrote that "even though he was my father, he was still my king".  Those words explain this passage well. Even though Jesus is our friend, He is still our Lord.    


From this passage we learn that friendship with Jesus is based on the fact that what He had learned from His Father He has passed on to His disciples.  Something that is often missed here is that Jesus actually had to learn certain things from His Father, implying that what He learned He didn't previously know.  Anyway, we know His business, as the NIV puts it, because He has commissioned us to represent Him and His business on earth (John  20:21).  Our friendship with Jesus is thus linked to this commission.  Being Jesus' friend does not mean we're good buddies who hang out with each other just for the fun of it, which I think might have been the sentiment of some Charismatic Christians in decades past.  Friendship with Jesus has a purpose that goes beyond enjoying His presence in a meeting.


Jesus considers those who obey Him to be His friends.  That may sound more like servanthood than friendship but this is why Paul and the first generation of Christians felt the necessity to be servants of the Lord Jesus.  In short, without obedience to Jesus there is no friendship with Him.  Disobedience shows a lack of respect and inhibits the free flow of love that is essential between friends.  By the way, the Greek word translated as "friend" in this passage is "philos", which is often translated as "love" in the New Testament.  This tells me that a loving friendship requires supporting actions, and in the case of being friends with Jesus, one supporting action is obedience.    


It seems to me that our present Christian world is occupied with serving self instead of serving Jesus.  Obedience is becoming a forgotten word.  The Prosperity Gospel and the Ultra Faith Movement promote how Jesus can serve us more than how we can serve Jesus.  Whether we admit it or not, we are self-seeking.  It's just part of our fallen and sinful nature.     


How do we actually serve Jesus anyway?  We can't offer Him a drink of water as the woman at the well did in John 4.  We can, however, serve Him by serving those whom He has placed before us at any given time (Matthew 24:45).  For a married couple, the first opportunity to serve on any given day is to serve each other.  Beyond that we serve anyone who crosses our paths during the day.  What this service looks like depends on the particular circumstances that brings someone across our paths.  Whatever serving looks like in any particular instance, it's putting others ahead of ourselves.  It's making them feel good.


What I learn from this passage is that if you want to be Jesus' friend, you will obey Him.  Part of obeying Him is serving those He has placed before you at any given time.  If you think this through, and if you desire good friendships, serving is fundamental in building relationships. 


I understand that there have been unhealthy and unbiblical abuses when service is demanded by another.  I also understand that just as love must be demonstrated within the boundaries of Biblical truth (1 John 3:18) so serving must be performed within these same boundaries.  You don't perform a service that is sinful in the process of establishing a friendship. 


I maintain that the mark of a mature Christian isn't how many spiritual gifts he has, or his position in the church, or anything else.  The distinguishing mark of a mature Christian is seen in his ability to lay aside himself to serve others.  Serving, as the Greek word "doulos" implies, is a matter of our own free will.  When we freely choose to serve Jesus by serving others, we become both His friend and the friends of those we serve.


Jesus certainly wants to be our friends, but friendship is a two way street.  It requires certain actions on our part for this friendship to succeed and mature.  So remember, even though Jesus is our friend, He is still our Lord. 




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