May 17, 2020 (Sunday) - Friends, Not Slaves - A Reflection on John 15:15-21

(Jesus said:) 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. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

This passage summarizes much of what we reflected upon this month, so I’m gonna highlight some of the important points. One of the most wonderful things that happened to the apostles was their elevation from being servants to friends. I can only imagine their joy when Jesus said to them: I don’t call you servants any longer, but friends. It was like they were insurance salesmen who were suddenly made owners in the company. It wasn’t just a promotion; it was a total lifestyle change.

And, then, to make sure that they didn’t think they were given this status change because they were ultra smart or super holy, Jesus tells them: you did not choose me but I chose you. Quite a few people got upset a few days ago when I said our salvation is in God’s hands, not ours, but this is true. We find this constantly repeated in John’s gospel, and in this passage Jesus says it twice. I won’t pretend I fully understand this, but I don’t need to understand everything. I am content to preach the gospel, as I am called to do, and leave the results to God.

This is what the apostles were told to do as a result of their being chosen: to preach the gospel. “I have appointed you to go and bear fruit,” Jesus says to them. “Fruit that will last.” Now that they were considered “co-owners in the company”, they were not to just follow orders like unthinking servants, but as people who had an investment in the Kingdom of God, willingly and knowledgeably participating in its growth. Jesus had told them, “I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” He had taught them what they needed to know about Kingdom and how to grow it, now they had to go out and do it.

Jesus has chosen us too, those among us who are “real” Christians, to participate in the growing of his Kingdom. There I go using the “real” word again, but it is important to tell the difference. A “Christian” who throws his lot in with the world, doing what it does, with nothing to differentiate himself from unbelievers, is not a follower of Christ. Again, this is what our Lord is saying. “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Otherwise they will hate you.” Does the world love you or hate you?

We can’t have a foot in both places. We can’t follow Jesus when it suits us, and the world when that suits us. It’s either the world or it is him. There are no gray areas. As our Lord said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). And, just as he did with the apostles, he is making known to us everything through his word and through his Holy Spirit, who he said would “teach us all things” (John 14:26).

So, let us be good friends to our Lord, and do the best we can with the commission he has given us.