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
"What are you doing today to serve God?" Ever hear that question? Or have you ever sat and listened to an incredible missionary presentation and wished you could go serve God overseas? I have. When I was younger I'd hear my grandma tell many stories of serving as a missionary in South America, or stories of missionaries she knew. I always felt like in order to be important in God's kingdom you had to be a pastor or a missionary (or, in my case as a girl, the wife of a pastor or missionary). And of course I wanted to be important. But I didn't particularly feel called to be "in the ministry." At least, not in the traditional sense.
I remember the relief I had as I got a little older and realized that God uses people of all vocations, and furthermore He needs people in every walk of life to be useful for Him. I realized that God calls everyone who follows Him to certain tasks. But I still couldn't shake the mindset of servanthood. I would practically beg for God to use me as His servant to do His bidding. I didn't care if He sent me to live in a mud hut and eat strange foods and go through all sorts of hardships. I just wanted to *do* something for God. I wanted to do *anything* for God. But something was missing.
There is nothing wrong with seeking servanthood. The Bible speaks plenty of being a servant. It's associated with humility and selflessness. Paul often refers to himself as a bondservant of Christ--indebted to Him because of the price He paid. But if we get to the point where we seek the service rather than seeking the One we serve, we have swung the proverbial pendulum off-target.
I think Jesus' wording was very precise when He told the disciples they were not just His servants, but His friends. He makes the distinction, and I think we should take note. A servant is concerned only with managing whatever department they are entrusted with. They are list-keepers, so to speak. They have a set regime of tasks to complete in order to fulfill their duty. There is little relationship with "the boss." A friend, on the other hand, has close relationship. A friend serves, but a friend's service is born out of love. There is no pressure to perform in order to maintain a status and get paid. There is only the desire to please. You know what your friend has in mind, their likes and displeasure, and out of your love for your friend you do what you can to please them. Not out of fear of rejection; out of love.
Imagine if your mother when you were a child was so fixated on feeding you and keeping your face and clothes clean and neat and keeping the house clean and neat that that was all she ever talked about and all she ever paid attention to you or had fun with you. Chances are if you had that childhood, you probably don't have very fond memories of it. In contrast, if your mother lets you play in the mud and make a mess in the kitchen once in a while, you will probably grow up with great childhood memories. Why? Because in the first example it's all about the house and the clothes and appearances and keeping rules. In the second example it's about enjoying life together. There is relationship.
That is the friendship vs servanthood distinction. It's about relationship. It's about love and mutual respect. So serve God and serve Him well, but let it all be done out of your love and appreciation for all He's done for you. By the way, He did it for you out of love.
P.S. sorry for the weird background highlighting. I don't know why it's doing that and it won't stop.