“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Many of us go to church for selfish reasons. They might be healthy reasons (I want fellowship, accountability, worship experience, to draw close to God, to be taught a challenging message) but they are primarily about me getting/consuming something. Churches cater to this. We promote ourselves as offering services or experiences, teaching or ‘community’– these are our goods which we promote to tantalize and tempt people to come to our church. But this feeds into a stance in opposition to Christ who “did not come to be served, but to serve…” We need to evaluate whether or not we are taking and not giving, consuming and not serving.
The idea of service is sort of popular now. Recent books like ‘the hole in our gospel’ have become must-reads at many churches. Christians such as Shane Claiborne or Francis Chan are calling Christians to live their life to make an impact in the world– especially through Christian service. Thinking about such radical transformational possibilities is exciting, and it is wonderful that Christians are considering such role models and being inspired to consider how they are spending their life more seriously. But sometimes it results in serving at a soup kitchen once or twice, and then the excitement wears off, and its back to reality. When we serve in order to scratch an itch to serve, the itch is quickly scratched, and then we feel fine. When service becomes another need of ours, it is often a superficial desire which is easily satisfied and then we move on.
Old habits are hard to break, and many of us construct our lives in such a way that we make it quite difficult to serve, or to even think about it. Most of the prompts around us draw us to think of ourselves first, and beside that we also have a natural born disposition to be fairly self centered. So we construct a world sheltered from the poor and the hurting, and we fill our lives with work and leisure and busy-ness so that we really have very little time to consider the needs of others close to us, much less the needs of strangers outside my circle of acquaintances. Its not that we don’t like the idea in general of living a life of sacrifice for Christ, its just that unfortunately, we are too busy to do it (although we’d really like to).
But the consumer attitudes run deeper than that in most of us. Our packed lives make us more miserly with our time when it comes to being involved in Christian community. I decide whether or not I’ll be in a small group not because I think God calls us to serve others through being in such groups, rather, my decision is based on what I will get out of it. I decide whether or not I will attend a church gathering or meeting based on whether I think it’ll be a good sermon or who will be there, rather than going to honor God and to encourage others who are there. We like the idea of community– of getting it. But when it comes to being committed enough to create it for others– well thats not how most of us think about the matter.
We know that whoever will try to gain his life shall lose it, and whoever loses it for Christs sake will gain it, but still, its hard to give up our lives, our days, our evenings, our mornings, our hours. We have a lot going on. We have a lot to lose. We don’t really believe Jesus. “I tell you the truth”, Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and th egospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present agee…and in the age to come, eternal life” Mark 10:29
The notion of servanthood is kind of cool. Being a faithful servant of others in commitment and real love is very very hard. It takes discipline and life choices which confront us with choices to live our lives for ourselves or to really lay down our lives and our schedules for others. When we have such busy and such multifaceted lives, it is hard to be willing to get tied down to the needs of others, and the bother of regular commitments and faithful service.
Am I a person who is a life-consumer or a life giver? Am I someone who provides grace and peace to others, or am I so frantically living my life that I am usually running on empty and so unable to really stop to think about others, much less actually live for their sake instead of my own? One can’t simply decide to think about others– the reasons we don’t are often rooted in our lifestyles and habits which go deep and run throughout our lives. Christian life and practice is based on fundamental decisions we make about how we construct our lives. Have we constructed our lives to allow us to serve others, or have we constructed them so as to have no time left for the Other? This is a good question to ask ourselves…
Here is a great ‘scolding’ from Mark Driscol on being a consumer Christian (no, I don’t agree with everything pastor Driscol says, but this is great):
May God have mercy on us all…