Spiritual Disciplines 4- Service
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”Mark 9:35
“Most of us know we will never be the greatest; just don’t let us be the least.
Gathered at the Passover feast, the disciples were keenly aware that someone needed to wash the others’ feet. The problem was that the only people who washed feet where the least. so there they sat, feet caked with dirt. It was such a sore point that they were not even going to talk about it. No one wanted to be considered the least. Then Jesus took a towel and a basin and redefined greatness.
Having lived out servanthood before them, he called them to the way of service: ‘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 as I have done to you.’”Richard Foster
To grow in Christlikeness, we must grow in the humility that allows us to serve others. Jesus is the Lord who stooped to serve. He washed the feet of his own followers. This was the most menial task of any household, reserved for the lowest of the low. Jesus says to his people, “you also should do as I have done to you.”
We often think about how this principle applies in Church, all of us are called to serve. It would be a strange and sorry state of affairs were a member of our body; an arm, a leg, a hand, to decide to be too selfish to serve the needs of the body as a whole. The Body of Christ should consist of members who happily serve each other in love.
That said, the call to service is not one that exists simply within the Church community, rather Christ calls us to a lifestyle of service. He calls us not just to perform acts of service or to take on a role which involves service, but to become servants.
Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Priest and the Levite presumably performed the acts of service expected of them at the Temple, but they never seemed to see themselves as servants. When approaching a man lying ‘half-dead’ by the side of the road, they crossed over, leaving him to die. The good-Samaritan however, served the man. Putting the needs of this stranger, this foreigner, above his own. He bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He lifted the man on to his own donkey and took him to an inn where he cared for him and paid for his stay.
Jesus finishes the parable by saying “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37)
This is a great challenge. To quote Richard Foster again:
“In some ways we would prefer to hear Jesus’ call to deny father and mother, houses and land for the sake of the gospel… Radical self-denial gives the feel of adventure. If we forsake all, we even have the chance of glorious martyrdom. But in service we must experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves. Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial.”
Dying ‘many little deaths’ is not easy. We’d rather be recognised for our good deeds done, serving others in small ways when no one is watching doesn’t seem to satisfy our craving to be the hero of our own story.
Nevertheless to live this life of service is profoundly rewarding, and liberating. It frees us from the fight to climb the ladder of social standing. Suddenly we find ourselves living for an audience of One- the Lord himself. As with all of the spiritual disciplines, when practiced, the discipline of service also leads us closer to Christ. Service shapes and fashions us more into the image and likeness of the Lord we love, the Lord who first loved us, and gave himself for us.
We serve him, as we serve others in his Name.