Friday, January 17, 2014

The Other Side of Service

I loathe Vacation Bible School.  I have lots of reasons, some valid, some trivial.  I think it is a relic of a bygone era that doesn't meet the evangelistic needs of the Church today.  I think cookies and Kool-aid at eight in the evening is a really bad idea, especially since many kids are already up past their bedtime.  Loud silly songs grate on my nerves and don't seem to serve any educational purpose.  If I had my way, we would find some other way to reach the children in our neighborhoods for Christ.  So last year, I helped prepare for VBS and taught one of the classes.

Yes, I cheerfully got involved in an effort I don't really believe in.  Why?  Because the leadership in my congregation had decided that VBS was worth doing, and the organizers needed help.  Sometimes being a servant means doing what you are asked to do whether you want to do it or not.

Servanthood is one of those topics Christians talk about a lot, and for good reason. Jesus thought it was important enough to give his disciples an object lesson at the same time he instituted the Lord's Supper.  When I think about being a servant, I think of the foot-washing story first. Therefore, when service comes to mind, I often think of a humbling job, but one I take upon myself.  While we can certainly serve in that way, I think that Jesus had more in mind when he told us to serve one another.  

Take this exchange for example:

They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, "Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me." (Mark 9:33-37)

Jesus told his disciples that they had to be servants if they wanted to be great in the kingdom of heaven.   In Matthew's gospel, he tells them not only to receive little children, but to be like them (Matthew 18:1-5).  What do servants have in common with children? They are expected to do as they are told.  The people in Jesus' day understood this role of servant well.  

For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." (Matthew 8:9).

In today's world, we don't have any problem with the idea that we are supposed to do what Jesus tells us (even when we don't do it), but we often find it difficult to serve our fellow Christians by doing as they ask. Whether we want to be the ones in charge, or we don't like being told what to do, our idea of service does not always include obeying our fellow Christians. Let's face it; when you get a large enough group of people together, personalities often collide and not everyone agrees.  Paul tells us in Galatians that we are to love and serve one another anyway. 

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:13-14).

[A]nd be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Galatians 5:21). 

I'm not talking about blind obedience to every single request. Ultimately, God is our master, and we should always prayerfully consider whether our service would be pleasing to Him.  However, we can't assume that just because we don't like a particular job that is it not pleasing to God.  As far as church work goes, if I don't trust my elders enough to do as they ask me, I'm probably in the wrong place anyway.  If I trust the leadership in my congregation, then I am commanded to do as they request.  

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17).

I can't tell you that my thoughts about Vacation Bible School changed after I got involved.  I still don't like it, although I did participate with a good attitude. I can say that I learned more about what it was like to be a servant to my fellow Christians by doing a job I didn't like simply because I was asked to do it.  


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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