I find it difficult to simultaneously embrace both God’s transcendence (He is big, mighty, holy) and His immanence (He is right here with you). These are two equally formative truths: He is my master and He is my friend. As my friend he listens to my unceasing vomiting of words, celebrates with me, weeps with me, and speaks into my life. As my master He has authority over me, leads me, disciplines me, and demands obedience. This tension is one of the things that makes Christianity unique. If He is simply my friend it is easy to reduce Him to a God who is merely making suggestions for improvements in the betterment of my life. As my master I am confronted with the fact that He isn’t making suggestions but demanding and expecting my obedience.
We are more comfortable with a peer than we are an authority figure, suggestions than we are commands, and collaboration than we are submission. Jesus holds this duality in perfect tension as he teaches his disciples at the Last Supper:
You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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. John 15:14-15
I’ve had friends who were only my friends as long as I did exactly what they wanted me to do; they were not good friends. However, here I think Jesus is addressing the uniqueness of the divine relationship. Status as friends seems to be connected with obedience (do what I command you) and understanding (you’ve been told what the master is doing).
We want understanding to precede obedience. We expect that God gives us a “why” before we give Him a “yes”. Like a child who has been told to finish his vegetables or clean his room, we are constantly asking why. If I am being honest, I often expect that God gives me His line of reasoning so that I can evaluate it, check for weaknesses, and affirm that His conclusion is the best. Sometimes when asking God “Why?”, I hear God say what all good parents will say at times, “Because I said so”.
I find that often understanding flows out from obedience. After choosing to be obedient to God I gain an understanding that only time and perspective could have afforded me. As your Master, God is seeking your obedience. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7) Jesus states it plainly, if you follow his teaching you are wise, if you fail to follow his teaching you are foolish.
Not only does God expect our obedience but He expects our exclusive obedience. Not because God is insecure in His status as our Master, but because He knows we can’t have two masters. At some point obedience to one will require disobedience to the other. On that day we will embrace one as our master and the other as not our master.
I find often that we try to embrace this dual master lifestyle even after being told of its impending failure. So we try to serve both God and money, God and success, God and self-gratification, God and family, God and country, God and (fill in the blank). Only to be confronted by a God who continually demands our exclusive obedience. Our master is revealed by our obedience.
God is the good Master. As the good Master His ways are good, pure, and can be trusted. As the good Master He is faithful, He will protect you even when others harm you, He will heal you, and lead you. As the good Master He loves you, forgives you, and comforts you. And as the good Master He is seeking obedient children. May it be true of you.