5-7-15 - No Longer Servants

I’ve heard of promotions and upgrades, but rarely a status upgrade like the one Jesus' followers got on his last evening among them. He was telling them what it means to abide in his love, to live by his commandments, to love one another with the kind of love they received from him. He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

In a culture in which people attached themselves to a spiritual master, whom they served and revered, followed and learned from, this language of friendship must have sounded jarring. So Jesus explained,
“I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”

Being someone’s servant and being their friend are very different. Being a servant can be easier – you have no responsibility to strategize, to plan, or to achieve the grand vision. You need only fulfill the tasks assigned you with all the skill and commitment you can muster. And then collect your paycheck and take your assigned time off. Contractual, hierarchical relationships can be simpler.

Friendship, with its mutuality and intimacy, is much messier, not so much contractual as covenental, based on commitment to nurturing the friend and growing the friendship. Friends are responsible for one another in a way that a boss and servant are not. Friends are recipients of each other’s joys and worries and confidences. This is what Jesus highlights; he says he has entrusted his followers with everything he has heard from God the Father. That must have been daunting to hear.

And yet, it must also have been exhilarating to be told they were no longer servants, but friends. If we work for someone we respect and admire, it’s a rush to be elevated from employee to friend. There is more freedom and collegiality, along with more responsibility.

I wonder if I have taken Jesus up on his offer of friendship. I tend to think of myself as a servant; some days I feel more like a pack mule struggling up a hill than an independent, respected, friend of the Living God. Have I not fully integrated this promise of Jesus’? Or do I not want the responsibility that goes along with it? Do I prefer to think I work for Jesus rather than with him?

Jesus didn't ask me - or you - to work for him. He wants us working with him, filled with his Spirit, not checking off tasks and asking him to sign off on our time-sheets. I believe he has entrusted us with the honor and responsibility of being his friends. Have we accepted? Do we hang out in prayer with him as a friend? Do we go out, healing and transforming people with him, sitting with sinners, challenging oppressors, loving the loveless?

How do we move and talk and sit and listen as friend of the Risen and Anointed One? Figuring that out - that's the work of ministry.

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