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It's Good to Learn to Serveby Duane Mabee on May 4, 2017
“It’s good to learn to serve,” we say, and we’re right. Jesus modelled that. He washed the disciples’ feet and then told them: “Since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you,” (John 13:12-15, NLT).
So, we organize service projects. They can be a lot of fun. We pick a project we want to do, then go with a group to someone’s house to work together on things that we do well – or at least acceptably well. The people we serve are usually quite appreciative and we get a great feeling of pride and accomplishment.
I think we should do more of that kind of service. But, is that what Jesus meant? He had just washed the dirty feet of a bunch of men who had been traveling. Not your most pleasant job. He did it by Himself while others watched. No one particularly appreciated it – in fact one insinuated that He was crazy. He would, soon, perform the ultimate act of service – dying in our place. In the process, He would be abused, rejected and abandoned. That’s being a servant.
I don’t want to paint the picture too bleak, but often when we talk about serving, we’re talking about doing things that we like to do, with people we enjoy, for people who appreciate our effort. We really don’t know what it means to serve, though, until someone treats us like a servant and we lovingly serve them anyway.
That thought struck home while I was performing an act of service a while back. I confess my attitude wasn’t good so I probably forfeited any reward I might have received. Those who wanted the job done made it clear that they wouldn’t be doing it. The people who benefited from the work would neither help or appreciate the fact that it was done for them. It wasn’t a pleasant task. I don’t enjoy doing it. I felt treated like a slave. That’s when it struck me again that talking about being a servant sounds great and “Christian” until someone treats you like a slave, but it is only then that we begin to understand what Christ was really talking about.
Do we realize that most of the attributes that define Christian maturity cannot be developed or demonstrated outside of the context of difficult relationships? Think of the fruit of the Spirit, (Gal. 5:22-23). How do you prove that you are loving, patient, gentle, faithful or self-controlled in an atmosphere where everyone treats you well? You cannot be sure that you are patient or self-controlled until someone pushes all your hot buttons at the same time. When that happens and you maintain control, you begin to see Christlike maturity at play in your life.
Being a servant is the same way. You can only begin to see that you are a Christlike servant when someone treats you like a servant. “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” Sigh… maybe I will have a better attitude next time.