I Never Called You Servants...He Liked The Juice
A Passion Translation
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Those are the NIV-translated words of Jesus found in John 15:15.
But the Brian Simmons Passion Translation of that verse is my favorite, and I think it’s infinitely more accurate—not based on my academic prowess but on what I know about love.
It reads, “I have never called you ‘servants’… But I call you my most intimate friends….”
He Liked The Juice
For a long time, my son, Ethan Wilde, yes, we named him Wilde, was only aware of one fruit of the Spirit, self-control. That’s because when he was between the ages of 7 and 13, I preached it with a fervor Billy Graham would envy.
My son started out like the rest of us—brilliant and immature, a professional mistake-maker. And there were a few years when Karen and I wondered if he would ever know the freedom self-control afforded.
During those years, if Ethan was hungry, he ate the chips—all of them. Sometimes he ate all of them even when he wasn’t hungry. If he thought math was stupid, he found the answer key online and passed fourth grade with flying colors. If he wasn’t tired, he approached bedtime as a suggestion. And when it came to juice, God help us!
We’re a juice family, but I never got any during those years. Yeah, Karen bought juice and even put it in the fridge. But what happened after that resembled a magic show, because if you turned around—voila! It was gone—or worse.
What’s worse? Try opening the refrigerator and thinking excitedly, “Hey, juice!” only to lift the container and discover just a swallow remains. What kinda monster leaves a swallow? A swallow of juice is like decaffeinated coffee—why bother? A swallow of juice is the kinda thing that causes parents to fondly reminisce about the days before kids—except it wasn’t the kids that drank all but a swallow of juice, it was that kid—Ethan, always Ethan!
So, I made a rule—a law, a commandment—for my son, to wit: “Thou shalt only have one glass of juice a day. Just one glass! I’m serious! Son, look at me. I mean it.”
This led to a cleverness that’s hilarious—now. You see, the first rule didn’t fix the problem; there was still no juice in the house. “Maybe it’s the girls,” I briefly wondered until the day I watched Ethan pouring juice into the 32-ounce plastic Buffalo Bills cup we used to water the plants.
That led to a second rule, a subset of the original commandment. “This glass,” I pronounced, grabbing a medium-sized glass from the cupboard.
A couple of days later, I walked into the kitchen just in time to see my curly-brown-haired boy, glass on the counter, mouth on the glass, as he poured the juice into it. He was slurping the overflow!
“Are you kidding?” I thought, annoyed, impressed, and exhausted.
If you’re a parent with littles, you are likely laughing and crying, because you also have a clever, rule-bending, wild kid; and you, too, are juice deprived.
During this parenting season, I knew a mom who told her kids, “I’ve put two juices in the fridge, and I peed in one of them.” I don’t know if it worked for her, but in my house, Ethan would have risked it.
So, for years, Ethan and I had deep conversations about self-control, generosity, obedience, and the nature of trust and freedom.
“Son, my goal isn’t to micromanage your juice usage. I got other things to do with my life. My goal is that you would get a hold of my heart for a juice culture of generosity so that you can live in the freedom of self-control and everybody in the house can have juice!”
“Son, why does a car have brakes?” I’d occasionally ask during a juice course correction conversation. “So it can go fast,” he’d respond with enthusiasm.
As parents of littles, our desire wasn’t to control our kids; it was that they would mature in love and grow in self-control. We wanted our kids to have full access to our love and affection so they could have full access to freedom in every stage of life—so they can go fast!
Our goal as parents is mutual trust, and to mature in friendship. Therefore, our highest pursuit wasn’t obedience. Rather, it was heart-to-heart communion, knowing, connection. Obedience was simply a road we traveled together as a family—as friends—maturing in love.
When our kids were young, and, therefore, immature, obedience was a huge part of our friendship. And on the days when Karen and I were most like our heavenly Father, there was nothing transactional about it. By that, I mean, obedience wasn’t about changing behavior; it was an opportunity to grow in mutual trust.
Karen and I endeavored to create a family culture that protected trust. In that culturally safe place, obedience was an opportunity for our kids to discover and develop our values—our heart for the whole family. Obedience was a way our kids could mature in greater love and the fruits thereof—one of those fruits being the freedom of self-control.
On the days when we were most like our heavenly Father, we didn’t want to control Ethan; we wanted Ethan to control himself. We wanted our son to be empowered to go to the fridge, assess how much juice there was, take into account the four other people who lived in the house, and make a decision that was about love and generosity and going fast! For us, this would have been like heaven had come to earth.
In a family culture where self-giving love is the foundation, obedience becomes an expression of humility, generosity, and freedom. Karen and I have learned that where there’s a heart-to-heart connection, obedience is a natural response, the evidence of a maturing friendship. Conversely, where there is no heart-to-heart connection, obedience becomes transactional, and slaving, or rebelling, is the fruit.
“I have never called you ‘servants’… But I call you my most intimate friends….” 1
We never called our kids servants. That’s the point I’m trying to make. Our kids have always been our most intimate friends.
You see, if you teach children to obey and serve outside of heart-to-heart connection, they will become servants who don’t know friendship. And that’s the last thing Karen and I want for our kids! Those servants end up slaving like the prodigal outside of family, or the older brother outside of reconciliation.
Karen and I weren’t interested in raising slaving servants, “because a servant does not know his master’s business….” Instead, we endeavored to raise friends because, well, they get access to “everything that (we have) learned from (our) Father….”
You know, my kids have never once called me, master. They have always called me, dad.
You know, Jesus never once called His Father, Master. He always called Him, Dad.
Jesus was the greatest servant of all but never left sonship to serve. He never rebelled or slaved for a Master, because He had a heart-to-heart connection with a good Father—they were best friends. Jesus never lived desperate, because He knew the confident freedom of sonship. He never lived insecure, because He knew the eternal life of a greater love friendship.
Jesus redefined obedience in the relational trust of family and friendship. He revealed that serving had nothing to do with the transactional hierarchy between masters and slaves.
(1) 1 John 15:15