Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Practice of Service

Jesus said he came, not to be served, but to serve. He was very intentional about giving of himself so that others would be benefited and blessed by his service. Since service, like selfishness, depends on habits to be carried out, I noticed several habits that Jesus practiced which allowed him to do amazing things with his life.

            Jesus had the habit of being genuinely interested in people. He was willing to give time to everyone who approached him. He was kind and practiced the oft neglected skill of listening! This is especially amazing since he had the power to solve people’s problems – but he refused to just solve the problem and send people on their way without engaging them as human beings first. Everyone, no matter their standing in life, was welcomed by Jesus.

            Jesus saw “distractions” and “interruptions” as opportunities to practice service. While Jesus, no doubt, made plans for his days, as well as having a general plan for his ministry, he was not a slave to his plans! Many of the people Jesus healed interrupted what he was doing with their pressing needs, and Jesus paused his schedule to serve them. This is a difficult habit in our culture that says “time is money” and if we, as disciples of Jesus, are going to cultivate that habit we will have to believe that “time is love!” I think Jesus gives us an endless supply of interruptions on which to practice this habit!

           Jesus was willing to look past presenting issues to see the deeper needs of people. Jesus steered conversations, creating opportunities to address people’s deepest needs in ways that made them open to the intrusion! To be helpfully intrusive is a tremendous spiritual gift which frees people to trust and receive help. It stands in marked contrast to people who are annoyingly, but unhelpfully, intrusive. It also stands in marked contrast to the majority of people who do not want to intrude into your life, not out of respect, but hoping that you will return the favor and not intrude into theirs! Helpful intrusion is a great way to understand what God is doing both in the world and in your life.

            Jesus understood that God poured blessings into his life and that his responsibility was simply to pass them on to the people around him. He once told his disciples, as he prepared to send them out to minister without his physical presence: “Freely you have received, freely give!” When you understand that it is not the one who dies with the most toys who wins, but the one who has been generous with God’s blessings, you are well on your way to the habit of serving! Jesus called this habit “storing up treasure in heaven!”

            In Ukraine, I have noticed a phrase that is used a lot when I am busy working in the neighborhood: “God help you!” People say it with a smile and walk on by. I interpret it to mean, “May God help you because I certainly am not going to help!” I wish they would just walk by silently! Jesus understood that he had a part in being “God’s help” for people. Quite simply, Jesus saw need, understood he could help, and made the consistent decision to actually help. That is the heart of service. That is the heart of Jesus.        

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