True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever the cost.
In Luke 22:27, which takes place during the Last Supper on the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus starts by stating what would be accepted as true in both Greek and Jewish cultures. He acts as host to a dinner time, and asks, who ranks greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Then he answers that it is one who sits at the table. So far, so typical. But it would be unlike Jesus not to turn those tables: "But I am among you as one who serves." Jesus is talking about more than being a waiter, though, and is not content with mere talk. He takes on the smellier, uglier task of washing feet. The host cleans, gives manual services of labor, and becomes someone to literally look down upon. The Authority serves. This is not at all the only example of Jesus' Servant-God approach, but it is the most direct. The hub of this way of seeing life is found in John's account of that same night, when Jesus calls on His disciples to love each other as He loves.
Why is service so central to Christian belief? Because we follow a God who serves. Or dare we hold ourselves to be greater than God, and hold that what God does is too menial or dirty or lacking in value? Even more, we follow a Christ who loves others. Dare we spurn those whom Christ treasures? And we have in us a Holy Spirit who gives us gifts expressly for the purpose of building up other people. Dare we squander the riches the Spirit has given us?
Apparently, we do dare. Most of us consistently fail to serve, to care enough about someone else to act in their favor. It's not as if servanthood is hard. You can do it. It doesn't take a God to pull it off. But then again, maybe it does in a way, for Jesus wasn't out for self-this and self-that, but rather others-this and others-that, and was able to pull it off. God wants to serve others through you. Maybe we have to rely on Jesus' character growing in us, as it brings out the fruit of the Spirit, and focuses us on doing right by others.
Servants aren't posers. They know they're not superstars. This helps others see that they too are just people. Servants can be held accountable for their service, because they're not busy with crafty coverups and aren't into C.Y.A.. A servant of Christ chooses to be like Christ and serve others. Servants do it in whatever way is needed, but prefer doing it in person. They see freedom not as a great way of doing something for themselves, but as the freedom to do what's needed to lift someone else who needs it. The servant forgives those who do them wrong, since God forgave them in Jesus. Most of all, the servant is actually looking for helpful ways to serve, to give, and to build up. They're glad to do it. The Spirit gives Christ's servants gifts so they can actually accomplish the acts of service.
The way of Christ is the way of being a servant to others and to God, done out of the gifts of love and abilities given by the Spirit. Serving others is the work of the church. Serving others has nothing to do with being servile. It has to do with being a human being among other human beings, nothing more but also nothing less, loving them as Jesus does, with actions as well as words.
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a good book to read on service :
McNeill/Morrison/Nouwen; *Compassion : A Reflection on the Christian Life* (Doubleday/Image, 1983)
----- The question that separates the wise from the wimps in spirituality is how to serve others, especially those others who are dealt the worst of hands by our society. It's where most people's spirituality (Christian or otherwise) turns tail and runs. No turning tail here: the writers teach us big-time lessons in real compassion.
More on teaching your children to serve.
Quotes On Serving Others
"I don't see any dichotomy between the 'pietistic' and social realms. To me, they're two aspects of the same thing: a pursuit of the will of God. I have always been moved by the phrase 'to hunger and thirst after righteousness'; righteousness covers both personal holiness and social justice."
John Stott, in Christianity Today, 08 Jan 1996, *"Basic Stott"*
"Blessed is the servant who esteems himself no more highly when he is praised and exalted by people than when he is considered worthless, foolish, and to be despised; since what a man is before God, that he is and nothing more."
------ Francis of Assisi
"The test of love is in how one relates not to saints and scholars but to rascals."
------ Abraham Joshua Heschel, in *A Passion for Truth*
"Yes, Christ is the answer. But Christ has always been the answer through somebody."
------ Tom Skinner, in an address at the 1970 Urbana missions conference.
"How can we ever manage to love unselfishly, to serve humbly and patiently in spite of frustration, if we do not live on God's forgiveness?"
------ Peter G. vanBreemen
"The Church has earned the reputation of being concerned only for itself. Others have concluded this because the answer to every question is to do something else for ourselves; let's pray more, let's conduct another city-wide prayer and worship event, let's build another building, let's tell people what we think about this issue, and so on. It is always about us. If we are going to become an agent of spiritual and social transformation it is going to have to be about them!"
------ Jack Dennison, NPPN Newsletter, submitted April 2002.
"A rich man sent his servant to the marketplace, and there the servant came upon a beggar. The beggar fell to his knees and cried out, "Please sir, might you spare some of your master's money so that I might have a bite to eat?" The servant replied, "What have you done for my master that you should be given some of my master's money? Is there no good that you can do in the world that you must grovel at my feet and beg??" The servant walked away giving the beggar nothing, for the servant had nothing of his own to give. But the beggar followed the servant to the rich man's home. He began working in the master's fields for free. He weeded the fields. He planted the seeds. He watered and pruned the vines. He gathered the grapes at harvest time, and pressed the grapes into wine. When the rich man heard about what the beggar was doing, he sent his servant to bring the beggar to him. "What shall I do with the beggar?", the servant asked. The rich man replied, "He is no longer a beggar, but is my son. Bring him into my home, he shall eat with me!"
------ "The Beggar's Lesson", unknown source; this version comes thanks to Lynn Tracci.
"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
------ Martin Luther King, Jr.
"It is not my aching back that prevents me from helping my neighbor any more than my choleric temperament. It's my don't-wanna-do-it attitude that does it."
------ Emily Carder
"I feel it's very important that we direct this "refreshing" and "enabling" move of the Spirit to the New Testament works of the church, that is to say, having been refreshed, we now must channel these people into work that would express that refreshing in solid, biblical context. That is to say that they should be encouraged to begin interceding, sharing their faith in an evangelistic context: they should be feeding the hungry, ministering to the poor, the widow, the divorcee, etc., etc. I believe that if we channel this energy away from a "bless me" kind of focus to a "bless them" kind of focus we will indeed be utilizing this fresh anointing in a biblically appropriate fashion."
------- John Wimber
"God welcomes genuine service, and that is the service of a soul that offers the bare and simple sacrifice of truth; but from false service, the mere display of material wealth, He turns away."
------- Philo of Alexandria
"Service...Giving what you don't have to give. Giving when you don't need to give. Giving because you want to give."
------- Damien Hess
"Independence? That's middle-class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth."
George Bernard Shaw
"Service is the rent we pay for living."
------- Marian Wright Edelman
"Freely we serve, because freely we love."
------- John Milton
A servant challenge:
What are you doing for others? Nothing?
Or perhaps you give money so somebody else can do something?
Nope. Not good enough.
My challenge to you is to serve by doing something yourself. Fire the middleman! Cut loose some time every other week (at least), and spend it on hands-on, face-to-face work. Try an hour or two, at first. (You might find it hard to stop there!) And at some other time, even if it's only once or twice in a year (hopefully more), be with others who are working on long-term solutions to the troubles of those in need, or in raising public awareness about them.
If you are serving :
- In what way do you give service?
- Do you find that God gave you power, gifts, oropportunities to serve? (If so, please be specific. Which gifts or opportunities? When was there special success in what you did?)
For anyone :
- Think back on some time in your life when you were being served. How did it help you? What did you think of those who served you? How did you treat them?
A wonderful book on serving and loving people has been written by Gary Morsch (of Heart To Heart) and Dean Nelson (of Point Loma Nazarene University). It's called The Power Of Serving Others.