Service–to care for the needs of others in a Christlike humility.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
John 13: 12-17
“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whenever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
Matthew 25: 37-39
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In this life we cannot do great things.
We can only do small things with great love.
Not many of us aspire to the title “Servant.” We would rather be anything else. Give us something BIG to do even if it is a lot of work or give us a task that is considered important by others. Let us be in charge of something and maybe throw in an impressive title. But when asked how to advance in the Kingdom hierarchy, Jesus said that if we want to be great, we must serve. If we want to be first, we must be a slave. There is nothing very impressive about that.
Well, not at first. But when you stop to think about it for a moment, it becomes clear that a true servant, one who models Christlike humility and compassion, one who doesn’t seek the spotlight and doesn’t demand his or her own way, does make an impression. It is a rare and beautiful thing to witness a person living out the call of Christian servanthood.
Jesus, as God in the Flesh, could have demanded the honor due his name. Instead he took a towel and washed the feet of his disciples and then told them to do likewise (John 13: 1-17). He told them that this was the pathway to blessing. Throughout his ministry he cared for those the world considered unimportant: the poor, the sick, those on the margins of society like foreigners, the lame, the unclean, the unemployed, tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, women and children. He spoke up for the orphans and widows, the people who had no voice and no power. He made it clear that if we are going to align ourselves with his name, then we will be feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the imprisoned. (Matthew 25: 31-46)
Jesus told those who would be his disciples to follow him. In other words they were to be like him, live like him. When we serve, we are most like Jesus. We live out humility, self-sacrifice, and compassion. We remind ourselves that it isn’t all about us and our demands, but rather about what we can do for others in cooperation with the Spirit. When we serve, we find ourselves in step with God, his will for us, and may experience a fresh sense of purpose as we witness how our lives can make a difference. When we serve, the Kingdom comes closer to being realized on earth. People are cared for, the hungry are fed, the lonely are loved, the sick are visited, the grieved are comforted. Work gets accomplished, pride and resentments are dissolved, a sense of well-being is experienced, our hearts are changed, and we find ourselves blessed.
Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) we ask that God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth like it is in heaven. If we look around we see that there is great need everywhere and that heaven is very far away for many. God’s way of realizing the Kingdom on earth is for us to be his presence here and now. He has invited us to be servants. For each of us that will look different, but we are all asked to serve.
Like all Spiritual Disciplines, this practice helps us become more like Jesus and more in love with God. When we do it, we place ourselves in position to receive grace and growth. Practicing Service allows us to experience the freedom that comes with acts of humility and the relinquishment of the need to be in charge or to get our own way. It allows us to put aside our self-importance and pride so that God can use us in whatever way is needed. When we truly serve we are free to love without limit and to give with abandon.
- Meditate on Matthew 25. Choose one of the examples of faithful living to implement in the next month. Take some sort of action today. For example, place a call to find out how to visit a prison in your area. Or call a soup kitchen to find out what kind of help is needed.
- Serve in secret. Find a way to serve someone or a group without anyone knowing.
- Educate yourself on a marginalized group of people. How might you serve them?
- Read the Good Samaritan passage in Luke 10:25-37. Who is your neighbor and how might you serve your neighbor today?
- Talk to someone from C3’s Justice Advocacy Compassion (JAC) group to see what C3 is doing to advance the Kingdom. Get involved.
- Talk to your lay pastor to find out what your CG is doing to bless your community and further the Kingdom. Get involved.
- Talk to your Lay Pastor about how you might serve the church with your gifts.
- Ask God to show you someone you can serve today. Be attentive to the invitations that will come your way.
- Pray the Lord’s Prayer daily being mindful of the requests that are made each time it is prayed.
- Write to your legislators concerning a bill currently in congress that will affect the poor or another marginalized population.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in Heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours forever.
- John 13: 1-17
- Matthew 25: 31-46
- Matthew 20: 25-28
- Colossians 3:22-24
- James 1:27
- Philippians 2: 1-11
- Luke 10:25-37
- Foster, Richard, Celebration of Discipline, chapter 9. New York: HarperCollins, 1978.
- Fuller, Millard, Theology of the Hammer. Macon, Georgia: Smyth&Helwys, 1994.
- Sider, Ron, Cup of Water, Bread of Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
- _____.Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger; Moving from Affluence to Generosity. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997.
- Wallis, Jim, God’s Politics, Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. New York: HarperCollines, 2005.
- Yoder, John Howard, Politics of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972.
- Sojourners Magazine
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Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.