Here is a famous quote: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. What a word means can be very different from how it is used or perceived. What if our perception of God is influenced by our understanding of language? That is a silly question, right? Of course our perception is influenced by our understanding which is often based on our experience, what we have been taught, what we “feel”, what others think, what is accepted by the world or popular opinion or “just how we were raised.” We need to realize that most of that kind of input is from the world, based on the world view, is the wisdom of man and comes from the ruler of this world. Sorry if that is abrupt, but it is true. So we need to seek “revelation” or “illumination” or a God perspective in all things. Yep, that’s right, all things. The good news is we have the mind of Christ, the fullness of God is in Jesus and the Spirit of Christ is in us. Not only that but we are living His life as we abide in Him. So God’s perspective is only a thought away, but do we want that revelation or do we prefer to be independent thinkers? I believe it is a valid question. The answer is found in our view of God based on the language we use to describe our relationship with Him. Let me explain. Start with this verse:
John 15:15 I no longer call you servants [slaves; bond-servants], because a servant [slave; bond-servant] does not know what his master [lord] is doing. But I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father. (EXB)
When you see the words “master” and “slave” what do you think of? If you are my age you remember a mini-series called “Roots” or maybe “Gone with the Wind” or how about Harriet Tubman or some other similar reference. Maybe you think of this definition of master from Webster’s: “one having control, an owner especially of a slave or animal; “As a slave he was required to do his master’s bidding without question. The dog was always obedient to its master.”” And this definition of slave: “person held in servitude as the chattel of another, one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence; “He treats her like a slave. Do it yourself! I’m not your slave!”” Ouch. Want to be a slave, do you? OK, that is a little rough but how about “Lord” and “servant”? When I think of Lord I see a parody of an old-English rich guy who has no clue, is very stuck-up and really doesn’t like people, how about you? For servant do you think of Cinderella or maybe “Alfred” from “Batman”? Michael Caine is a great actor but do you want to be a servant based on that understanding?
OK, I can hear the grumbling from here. “But the Bible says we are to be servants and how dare you compare God to an evil plantation owner.” Trust me I am not planting bad seed but trying to water good ones or generate some real hunger for a revelation of God’s true nature, so stay with me for a moment.
If you see God as the cruel master or arrogant Lord, what does your “obedience to being a servant” look like? Imagine the slave Mom or Dad telling their adolescent child to “hush up” and “watch your mouth” when they express anger or rebellion against the Master. The child learns to suppress or subdue their true feelings. They learn to put on a facade just to stay out of trouble. They look for every opportunity to escape. They can’t wait to get free from this bondage. How about the servant of the fictional English Lord? You learn to praise him in his presence and ridicule him in his absence. You look for opportunity to take what you can and trust him with nothing. I realize this is a bit extreme but I believe deep inside it is closer to the truth than we want to admit.
So let me help you rationalize a little. “He isn’t a master but a Lord.” Actually in the Greek the word is interchangeable. “We aren’t slaves but servants.” Again same applies, interchangeable. The truth is found in the nature of God. As master He is in charge of everything. There is nothing outside His influence. He has abundant resources. Not only that but He doesn’t even need your labor. That’s right, God is so big and so awesome and so unlimited that His success or failure does not depend on your service, really. I don’t mean that to promote inactivity, but to show that you are not “cattle” or “oxen” to work the ranch, get it? As Lord He has infinite wealth. He has infinite influence. He is King over all and all are subject to Him. As His servant you represent Him. All His resources are there to back you up. You will never lack for anything. On top of all that He is your Abba and your Friend! Now it is getting really good. He is love and He is in you. You are His greatest treasure. I know you already knew this but it is nice to be reminded.
So what is the point? When I say surrender or submit, what do you hear, what do you think, what type is your master or Lord? God wants us to surrender our will, our desire to be in control. If we see God as the master in the wrong way, we won’t submit or surrender but we will subdue or suppress “because He said so.” When you know that God has your best interest at heart, surrender of “your control” is easy. If you think God can’t be trusted or just don’t believe He works that way or loves that way, you will only subdue or suppress your behavior and your “will to control” remains intact. If that is the case, are you free? I lived that way for so many years. All I had to show for it was resentment against God and the Church. Suppression is not His perfect plan of Grace, surrender is. Grace sets us free, free to be a new creation. Grace empowers us in surrender. Let’s just give in and give up!
God reveals to us His nature. We get to live from our new nature. The Greek word for servant is doulos which means “devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.” The Greek word for friend is philos which means “friend, a companion, one of the bridegroom’s friends who on his behalf asked the hand of the bride and rendered him various services in closing the marriage and celebrating the nuptials.” That is awesome! We get to be servants and friends of the most amazing Master and Lord!!