Servants in the Flesh

After 359 Voice articles I come to the end. At times, I have enjoyed writing them, but there were a few times it felt like pulling teeth. You know, I’m not a writer, but someone in the church in years past had the pastor write an article every month, so that job was passed down to me. I did enjoy trying to be creative, enlightening, and encouraging.

As I look over my Christian life, there are two simple premises: to love God and love your neighbor (Mk 12:30-31). We are called to be servants of Jesus Christ. Especially today, in this narcissistic world, serving has become a lost art. Once it was considered an honor to serve someone, but in a “me first” culture that panders to self-expression and individualism, servanthood has virtually disappeared from our vocabulary.  

The Greek word for servant was used for under-rowers in a ship; the lowest galley slaves. This word stresses subordination and responsibility to a superior. Our example of a servant is Jesus Christ Himself who said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). D.L. Moody once said, “The measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many people he serves.” There is no limit to the good that a man can do, if he doesn't care who gets the credit. 

Ben Patterson noted this about the church’s attitude toward serving, “The church has produced hybrid Christians. On one hand they call themselves slaves of Jesus Christ, and on the other they regard themselves as volunteers who serve the church if they so choose. Once we name the name of Jesus, we cease to be volunteers in the kingdom. We become humble slaves.”

To be a servant requires a mental shift, a change in your attitudes. First, servants of God should be self-forgetful; they should focus on others, not themselves. Second, servants of God should think about their own responsibilities, not what other servants are doing. They don’t compare, criticize, or compete with other servants or ministries. Third, servants of God should base their identity in Christ, because they are unconditionally loved and accepted by grace. Finally, servants of God should think of serving as an opportunity, not an obligation. They should enjoy helping people, meeting needs, and doing ministry with gladness. A businessman once asked the President of the Navigators, Lorne Sanny, how he could know when he had a servant attitude. The reply was simple, “By how you act when you are treated like one!” Servants are to carry out their charges humbly, as they understand all their love, strength, time, and service rightly belongs to the Lord.

In Gal. 5:13, Paul exhorts believers to “not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” The word “opportunity” means springboard, bridgehead, or incentive. It was often used to indicate a central base from which all operations of a military campaign originated. Paul admonishes the Christians to not use their freedom as a base of operation from which the flesh is given a bridgehead to carry on its campaign of sin. Instead, we should use our spiritual freedom as a springboard to serve others. We serve others by seeking to minister to their needs rather than manipulate them to meet our needs. Thus, real Biblical freedom is not doing whatever we want, but lovingly serving others. 

The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will not be a ticker tape parade or monuments created in our honor, but that does not lessen our possible impact. There are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our encouragement, and who will need our unique talents.  Someone will have a happier life merely because we took the time to serve him or her. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities that we have to serve others for Jesus Christ. Albert Schweitzer said, "The only really happy people are those have learned how to serve."            

-Pastor Mike Kotrla