“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” (John 15:15).

Have you ever experienced the awkwardness of meeting someone you really enjoy and thinking that it was the start of a beautiful friendship, only to find out that they didn’t feel the same way? I’ll be honest, that is one of my biggest fears. I hate to be vulnerable and put my heart out there not knowing if my feelings will be returned. I want to make absolutely sure that the friendship is reciprocated before I ever let my real feelings be known. Initiating a relationship is a very scary place to be.

I was thinking about this the other day, when, all of a sudden, John 15:15 came crashing into my thoughts. Jesus does the very thing that I am so afraid of doing. He tells us, you and me, that he calls us “friend.” It almost seems like that can’t be right. I can understand God calling me his child, or his servant… but to call me his friend? He begins our relationship by calling me “friend.” I don’t do anything to deserve or earn this friendship.

He doesn’t invite us into friendship and then keep us at arms length. He tells us that he wants to share everything he knows from the Father with us. He invites us in completely, with no hesitation, no conditions, no judgments; just pure welcome. Fellowship and relationship with God is the ultimate goal of Christianity. This relationship is not something we can do; it is something that has happened to us.

What we deserve, at the very best, is to be called a servant. This was what the prodigal son asked for. He wanted to prove himself, to work for a relationship. Our God, like the father of the prodigal, will have nothing to do with that. When we come face-to-face with what we are, it feels like too much to even ask God—our Heavenly Father—if we can be a servant! The heart of the Father is to offer us something much better: “I don’t want you as servants. I call you friends.”

The lovely truth about dwelling on his proclamation of “friend” over me is that it frees me up to be a true friend to those around me. No longer am I looking to get into the “in” crowd; one such as Jesus has called me his friend! No longer do I have to wonder if others reciprocate my feelings; Jesus has loved me eternally even when I don’t love Him in return! No longer do I need to worry about whether or not a friend is meeting my needs; Jesus is truly all the friend I need! No longer do I have to demand that my friends are always available to walk me through a situation; Jesus never leaves my side! No longer do I have to make others prove that they’re worthy of my love; when I was unlovely and unworthy God initiated and sustains a relationship with me.

My savior has proved his love for and friendship to me by laying down his life for me. This opens up my heart and allows me to lay down my life for others. He has loved me when I don’t deserve it, even when I forget him. This changes my friendships; I can love even when I don’t feel like I am being treated the way I deserve.

Beloved friends of Christ, may we never forget that all of the love and acceptance that we look for in each other can be found only in the arms of Christ. His arms, once out-stretched on the cross for us, remain out-stretched, but now, reach toward us.