So then, if 1 John 3 tells us that we are now children of God but we do not know what we will become, then what is it that could tickle our imaginations that might be greater than being children of God?
As I have wrestled with this passage, what I have come up with is simply this: that we would be friends of God.
To many, that might seem like a step in the opposite direction, like it's going from someone who lives in the household with all the rights of an heir to someone who pops over from time to time for pizza and movies and maybe a game night. But hear me out on this, because that was my initial thought, too.
But what I've come to realize is that as we grow up, as we get older and mature into ourselves and come into the life that God is calling us into, our relationship with our earthly parents changes. (At least, in the healthiest of situations, it does; it's supposed to.) When we are young, we require their discipline and guidance. So many of the things in our childhood are given to us, including our opportunities. But literally everything, from fresh diapers to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to clean laundry. Our parents do so much for us when we are young, in an attempt to guide us and to teach us and to shape us toward the glory that we were intended to live (hopefully, for God, but I realize that not everyone grows up in a Christian household; I didn't).
Then as we grow up and show ourselves faithful and demonstrate all the things that have been instilled in us for so long, something changes. No longer do our parents go shopping for us; they go shopping with us. No longer do they make our dinner; they invite us to dinner. No longer do they set rules and regulations, but they are present with advice and a listening ear. Over time, our relationship changes whereby we are still parents and children, with all the things that come along with those roles, but we also become friends - we enjoy the company of one another. It's a blessing to hang out and do things together. We relish the time that we have.
And this, I think, is greater than just being children.
I think this is what Jesus had in mind when He said He no longer calls us servants, but He calls us friends. We have graduated to that position where there's not just an established relational dynamic, but a chosen one. We have gone beyond the roles that we started with and grown into a relationship that we desire, where we get to just enjoy the company of one another. It's a blessing to get to hang out and do things together. We come to relish the time that we have with God, no longer as children who sit on His lap for comfort and encouragement, but as grown, mature persons of faith humbled and honored to stand on holy ground.
This is better, right? This is greater. This is beyond just being children of God; we get to be His friends. He wants us to be His friends.
That's got to be what John had in mind when he wrote those words. He had to be thinking of a time when we, as children of God, would grow up and become more in the household of God. When we wouldn't require the kind of strict discipline and attention and rules and regulations that children require, when we wouldn't need the kind of overwhelming tending-to that we do when we are younger and immature. When God stops making us dinner all the time and instead invites us to the table.
When we become friends of God.