Service is not exclusively Christian, as many organizations and individuals serve without any or little connection to the Lord. In fact, the word “serving” takes on many shapes and forms in society overall. For instance, politicians call themselves “public servants.” When someone is in the armed forces, they describe themselves as being in the “service.” We also thank them for their service. There are many more examples I can cite. But, there are very clear differences as to how we serve as Christians. Here are three:
1. When we serve others we imitate Christ. Christian service is the demonstration of who we are in Christ. If we say we’re Christians, but do not serve, then we may not have the kind of relationship with Christ that we think we have. When we serve, we model Christ. Actually, serving, Scripture tells us, is what Jesus is all about: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Further, serving was so important to Jesus, that it was one of the last acts he performed with His disciples- that is, the washing of their feet. “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:12-15).
2. When we serve others, we serve the Lord. Serving others is really being Jesus’ hands and feet, in that God will use others to accomplish His work here on earth. He even uses people as direct answers to prayer! The well known modern parable (Source: unknown), “I Sent You A Rowboat,” speaks to this- A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.” A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me” A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me” All this time the floodwaters continued to rise until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.” “Yes you did my child” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter. But you never got in.” Indeed, serving others is being used by God. What an awesome thought! The apostle Peter said it this way: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
3. When we serve others, we fulfill the law. Really? How? As Christians, we know very well that it is by grace alone that we are saved, not by works (Ephesians 2:8), but the sacrificial love and service that comes out of our faith is how we fulfill the law of Christ. This is where good works count. In fact, Scripture says it like this: “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). One pastor said it this way, “good works equals goodwill, equals good news.” Then the apostle makes this extraordinary statement: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
While it’s great to serve in general, as I said earlier, when it’s out of love and devotion to God, we get to express God’s love to others. Faith working through love! That’s the best motive of all! Here’s a quick litmus test to check yours:
- Am I loving those who God loves- even those who are hard to love?
- Am I allowing myself to be used by God to care for those He cares for?
- Does my behavior demonstrate the love of God in me?
- Does it burden my heart that there are folks that are deprived or needy?
- Does that burden my heart to the point where I rush to meet those needs?
We have an opportunity here at Island Christian Church to put this into action. We’re calling June, “Shining His Light” month (the third part of our church’s mission statement), with opportunities to serve throughout the month. We hope you will take us up on one or more of these wonderful serving options.
Pastor Joe Garofalo