Service. It’s mostly disappeared, hasn’t it? The kids who work at Chick-Fil-A™ always bring a smile to my face when they answer my ‘thank you’ with “It’s my pleasure.” Those simple words are a step beyond “You’re welcome” and add a bit of warmth. Last week I took my car for an oil change at one of those drive through places. There, too, I found people who had been trained in customer service. This old man appreciates that in this world of impersonal transactions.
Let’s take a few steps beyond civility today and look at a challenge that Jesus gave us on the night of the Last Supper. There was no servant to do the customary washing of feet before dinner. None of the men gathered would humble himself to the task. Jesus did!
“After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (John 13:12-15, NLT) IF we only respond to that with a ritual of foot-washing in church we have largely missed the point.
The challenge is to a new way of living – one that is selfless, that takes the opportunities to serve others, in His Name. Our culture teaches us to love ourselves, to protect our ‘privacy,’ to pursue our own convenience. Healthy self-esteem is a good thing. To live with a sense of dignity and worth is a wonderful thing. However, when we mistakenly believe that our best life is only found in unrestricted self-expression, in have more things and more people serving our needs, we will begin to self-destruct.
Millions are convinced that Self must be served and so they spend ridiculously, pursue sensual pleasures without limit, build bigger homes, and become, in the process, more hollow and lonely human beings. A forgotten fact is this – the more we insist on ‘having it my way,’ the less joy we find.
Jesus’ in His divine wisdom teaches us that true joy isn’t found in selfishness, but in service! That does not come at the expense of knowing who we are, or thinking less of ourselves. In His words to the disciples Jesus plainly acknowledged his status as their “Lord and Teacher” but He did not love His social status so much that He would not serve.
In another text He amplifies the thought of serving as part of true greatness: “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.” (Matthew 23:11-12, The Message) Those words were addressed to religious leaders who loved public recognition, who walked among the ‘ordinary people’ keeping themselves above acts of charity or service.
That trait remains very much a part of us. Even among those who claim the Name of Christ there can be pushing for position, carefully protected perks, and not so subtle distinctions made between the ‘in’s’ and ‘out’s.’ Hundreds of churches are destroyed every year, not by outside attack, but by strife on the inside. A community of true servants would make that kind of conflict impossible. The consistent word of the Scripture is that God’s work is always done best in a mutually beneficial way.
We serve when we give up our insistence on a certain kind of music or a way of worship that appeals to our nature.
We serve when we support the whole ministry of the church, not just that one specific ministry that is dear to us.
We serve when we hear the Word in all the richness of revelation, not just in the way that features our favorite texts.
We serve when we pray earnestly for others, when we pick up the scrap of trash in the parking lot, when we offer encouragement to others, when we embrace our spiritual gift and offer it to the Body.
Where those kinds of attitudes flourish, you will find a church without power plays, without ‘greatness’ defined by wealth or position, without politics. Serving churches are a reflection of Jesus’ heart. “This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other equally. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26, NLT)
Christian, would you like to enjoy more beauty, experience more love, feel more joy?
Let me encourage you to forget about yourself and to start being a servant. Don’t wait to be served. Pick up your own stuff… and while you’re at it, tell your neighbor – “hey, let me get that for you.”
When you’re ready to take action, ask yourself, “Who benefits most? Me, or We?” When somebody trespasses onto ‘your’ space, steps on your toes, fails to notice your needs – pray for the Holy Spirit to change your response.
Here’s a word from the Word – a real challenge that requires that we are surrendered to the Spirit of God. Meditate on this prayerfully. “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do for others as you would like them to do for you. “Do you think you deserve credit merely for loving those who love you? Even the sinners do that!” (Luke 6:29-32, NLT)
(Video of this blog at this link)
Brother let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant too
We are pilgrims on a journey
We are brothers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load
I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through
When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony
© Words: 1977 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055