I no longer call you servants, but friends

‘I no longer call you servants…but friends’ John 15:15

The beloved disciple rests on Jesus’ breast

This line, I think, sums up how my faith has changed while at Oxford and how I feel God in my life. Before university, God was very much in the background; church was an obligation, an unalterable fact, but there was little relevance or immediacy. I don’t really think I understood why I believed what I did, or the implications of what I knew.

At this point, it is useful to mention CS Lewis’ ‘Voyage to Venus’ which has changed a lot of how I understand ‘obligation’ and the relationship between man and God. Love and obedience are shown to be interlinked; obedience is not obedience unless it is for its own sake, rather than as a means to gaining something – and to obey not out of fear or necessity but out of love is true obedience. This may seem rather muddled so far, but the point is this: I had been obeying more from necessity or custom than from love. It was only through the initial obedience that I found this stage of love which gave meaning and richness to my faith. Looking back on it, it was a bit like a black and white drawing being coloured in or a foreign language, where the words look pretty and sound good, but there is a much greater meaning when you understand them.

From abstract to practical

In practical terms then, what has changed and why? I think the biggest change was seeing God not just when saying my prayers and when at church, but as being there continually. This came about when I started taking part in more religious activities and talking about God more, over dinner or after lectures. He appeared not as isolated from the rest of my life once I let Him into it.

Loving God

The effect of loving God came after thinking about Him more and learning more about my faith in general. Theological knowledge and emotional knowledge completed each other, and meant that when it felt like God was not there, I knew He was, and when my faith felt too abstract and remote, a sudden piercing ray of love brought back the reality of faith.

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Anne Courtney, BA Classics