From Servants to Friends

Tidings, July-August 2019

Thought for the Month.

“This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my father.” (John 15:12-15)

This change in relationship from servants to friends, however, doesn’t just imply a change in how God relates to us—allowing us who were once mere servants to at last become witnesses to His previously hidden mysterious workings—it also requires a change in the way that we relate to God, permitting us now to respond in an appropriate way to that great privilege of being raised to the honour of coheirs with His Son, with whom we are now considered to share in friendship.

A servant, for example, certainly does what they have been asked to do, and no doubt they do it diligently, but nonetheless, they do what they have been asked to do for no other reason than because they have been asked to do it, for that is the nature of the relationship between a servant and their master.

But a friend, on the other hand, a friend does what has been asked of them, not simply because they have been asked and feel compelled in some way to respond positively, but because, and even without any sense of obligation, there still remains the desire to serve the other—and for no other reason than for friendship’s sake, for no other reason than because being a friend means being also one who seeks to serve, in whatever way we can, those with whom we share friendship.

So whereas in the past, those in the pre-Christian era who knew of God’s commands would obey them for no other reason than because a good servant obeys their master, and possibly also to avoid punishment, those in the post-Christian era and who likewise know God’s commands, obey them not because a master has given an order, but because a friend has asked—and not just any friend, but one who has himself shown us the full extent to which a true friend is willing to serve those he loves, even to the point of laying “down his life for his friends.”

Father Padraig Hawkins