There seems to be a few interesting tensions in the Bible between God’s perspective of us and our own perspective about us. And, in some senses, we are both right—if our attitude is couched within the framework of God’s attitude. Let me explain!
One example of this is the concept of servanthood. On the one hand, Jesus is clear that He does not view us as His servants. “No longer do I call you servants,” He says in John 15:15, “for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.”
Yet, on the other hand, Paul comes along and, over and over again in his epistles, he introduces himself as a “slave” or “servant” of Jesus Christ (see Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1). And he wrote these introductions 20-30 years after Christ made it clear that we are not His “servants” but His “friends.”
What’s going on here? Who’s right?
The truth is, they are both right. What many of us need to recognize is that God does not have a Master-slave attitude towards us. He has freed us from bondage. He does not look down upon us with a condescending, “They better obey Me—or else!” attitude. But many seem to be plagued with this picture of God. And so, like Paul, they vow to “serve” God—but with the wrong motivation. The prodigal son’s older brother seemed to have had this attitude when, while putting up a pity party for himself in the field when he found out his brother was being given a grand banquet, said to his gracious father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you” (Luke 15:29).
And yet this young man’s attitude of service and Paul’s attitude of service were worlds apart. Because, Paul did not view God as a Taskmaster, as someone who was exacting and arbitrary. Paul’s heart of service came from a sense of gratitude. He served God, not out of fear of punishment or hope of reward, but from a grateful heart that was overwhelmed by the love and attitude of friendship that His Savior had towards Him.
So, yes, on the one hand, God does not look upon us as His servants, but, on the other hand, you and I can look to God’s tremendous sacrifice and heart of friendship and say, “Lord, make me a servant!”