Servant of Friend?

A few weeks back I came across Jesus’ comments to his disciples in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

An observation: Christ is making a distinction in levels of relationships. Relationship #1 is that of a master to a servant. This relationship is characterized at best by minimal communication and knowledge (“does not know what his master is doing”). Relationship #2 is that of a master to a friend. This relationship is marked by regular communication that is distinctly personal (“I have heard from my Father I . . . to you”).

Being a friend is definitely better than being a servant. The deeper and more intimate the relationship, the more communication of a personal nature. However, with intimacy comes the risk of exposure and repercussion. The closer the friendship, the greater the risk—but with greater risk comes the possibility of greater reward.

Wanderings and wonderings: My initial thought was—“What are the implications here for pastoral theology?” “How should this affect pastor-staff relations?” After a couple of weeks of reflection, I’ve come to realize that this is a basic principle of leadership. The principle of close, regular, and personal communication brings equal rewards to every leadership situation. What marriage or family or church could not benefit from this type of communication? Too many mates and children and congregations or pastoral staffs feel more like servants than friends.

While intimate communication may not be a requirement for a pastor (1 Timothy 3) or a husband (Genesis 2), it is definitely a great gift that any pastor or husband or father could give those entrusted to him by God. Though not required, it is a reflection of Christlikeness.

About Charles McLain
I am Chair and Professor of Old Testament at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA.

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