The foundation of this series of posts rests on serving those in need. My assumption from the outset is we agree that serving is important, so it’s essential to stop and consider what it means to serve. Why serve? At its core, serving others is focused on giving up the scarce resource we all have in common. That resource is time. When we serve in any capacity, we give our time away.
Our current culture seems to be defined by a four-letter word: busy. If you ask someone how it’s going, their response will often include the phrase, “I’ve been really busy.” It’s almost a badge of honor these days. The opposite of being busy makes us sound like we’re lazy, idle, or worse! These two states provide extremes along the continuum from idle to busy, or completely idle to extremely busy. Those who tend to the far right are those we often esteem and revere. If we’re supposed to gravitate toward busyness, how can we find time to serve? Why serve when we have so much to do just to keep up?
What would the world look like if we chose not to serve?
Years ago, I heard a sermon on the topic of hell. Imagine two scenes that depict heaven and hell. In both scenes, we see a banquet feast with an abundance of food. There are all kinds of meats, vegetables, fruits, drinks, amazing desserts, all overflowing. In hell, the people are bitter, and in deep anguish, but in heaven, there is much rejoicing. The odd thing about the scene, for some strange reason, the people in both scenes have no elbows. When we zoom in on hell, we see people holding forks and spoons, but they can’t eat because they can’t bend their arms. They have to bury there faces in the food and eat like wild animals. There is no joy. In heaven, by contrast, there is much joy and rejoicing. The people have all learned to feed each other. One person scoops up the food and helps the other one eat. Those in heaven are focused on serving one another; those in hell are entirely self-centered.
I remember this lesson when I was a youth. It’s no surprise that I have a deep-rooted need to serve others.
I think it’s safe to say that a world in which no one serves another would indeed be hell on earth. A country full of people that refuses to serve each other would be the most repugnant of nations. If you’re nodding your head with me at this point, keep going down the line from world to the country to state to city to community. The challenge in all of this writing is to foster a community that serves one another. It’s a hope that the desire to serve others would spread to the state then to the entire country. The dream is to become a people that serve one another with gladness.
My thesis is simple: when we serve others with the love of Christ, each in his or her particular way, we will find complete joy and contentment. We would be the body of Christ. Then, when we take time to gather as a body of Christ, we will worship with unbridled enthusiasm that would be so inviting that others would eagerly desire to join us, they would flock to churches to find out why these people are so loving and so filled with purpose. In these moments, we will find a bit of heaven on earth, quite the opposite of the image painted above.
While the Old Testament may be challenging to read and understand, there is one theme that stands out above all others: God’s people are a chosen nation, unlike any other.
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. Deuteronomy 7:6
The Bible Project team does a great job covering a variety of topics. Here’s a link that dives into God’s chosen people. [The Bible Project]
There are many references to God’s plan to show others the distinction between those who reflect his love, his desire, and his compassion for others. Likewise, the Old Testament is filled with stories about those who chose to follow their selfish desires. Tragedy appears when Israel wants to be like everyone else. The more they chased the dream of being like other nations, the farther they wandered from a loving God who seeks reconciliation.
While my feeble mind can’t wrap itself around all history, it must have been necessary for us to appreciate God’s remedy. At just the right time in history, when anarchy reigned supreme and self-serving desires ruled the earth, God sent Jesus to enter time in the most unlikely of ways.
Those of us raised in Christian churches know the story, but we need to remember no one at the time every dreamed of how this would all play out. The prophets did their best to articulate the vision. Jesus was born from a humble family and grew up under the authority of a loving father and mother. He was patiently waiting for the right moment for his ministry to begin.
What did Jesus do at the beginning of His ministry?
From the very beginning, his ministry became known for his amazing teaching and his concern for the sick, the lame, the needy. Those steeped in Levitical Law would mark these outcasts as unclean and unwanted. The priests wanted nothing to do with them, but Jesus embraced them and healed many.
Why did the sick and lame seek Jesus? When Jesus called the disciples and began preaching about repentance, he didn’t tell them to set out a sign that said, “bring us your sick, your lame, your diseased…healing at 11.” If they didn’t put out a banner, why did they come?
Mark’s gospel account focuses on the things Jesus did. As he began teaching, Jesus cast out a demon from a man in the synagogue. (Side note: the man was “in” the synagogue, he was a part of the establishment and deeply possessed. Think about that for a minute.)
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Mark 1:27-28
People heard about what Jesus could do, and they sought him out. He served others as an integral part of his ministry. Jesus demonstrated his love and compassion for others, then taught us to do the same.
Why serve? How can we not serve? It’s part of who we are as a people of God.
Lord, let us be known as a people that care for others, especially those who the world has ignored or cast aside. May we read the stories of the Bible and learn from your example. May we be a people of action that love you, Lord, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. May we love our neighbor as ourselves, without boundaries. And may these acts of service draw people to you above all else. Amen.