Me? A Servant?
Old House, Sullivan, Maine
Sadly, the door mantle of this neglected, deserted house boasts an ancient cautionary message that is a contemporary reminder of our culture’s fading interest in God. When some Israelites began to follow the worship practices and the gods of local tribes. Moses’ successor, Joshua, who had led the Israelites into the Promised Land, exhorted them to make a conscious decision: follow other gods or Sovereign God. It is impossible to do both. “ But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD,” he told them. (Joshua 24:15)T
Serving and worshiping other “gods” is an odd thought for most of us. We may not see ourselves as worshipers or servants of anything or anyone let alone other gods, but passions, practices, possessions, pursuits, people, and philosophies to which we devote time, energy and resources can distract, preoccupy, and control us. They become self-serving, conscious decisions that can take precedent over God ‘s principles for life and prevent us from serving in the manner Joshua meant .”Serving” God is being what He created us to be (humans with characters like His), doing what He has asked us to do (caretaking of creation and its creatures, helping each other, and producing others with characters like God’s), and living according to principles that are spiritually healthy for us. In other words, submitting to God’s wisdom, authority, principles, and purposes is our service.
Jesus put “serving” into perspective when he was asked what working for God looked like. “The work of God is to believe on him who He sent,” he asserted. (John 6:29) Trusting what Christ taught and relying upon his redemptive work is the work of faith. Simplifying how that looks, he declared that keeping the moral law meant loving God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:30-31)
Although our efforts are frequently not perfect, for the most part, we in rural America do a fair job of loving our neighbors. We are generally caring, hugely generous, and compassionate. We are empathetic and encouraging. We sacrifice for each other. We show moral courage. We rally when our neighbors or communities are in need and suffering, and when our churches and charities ask for help for the afflicted, impoverished and persecuted, or when our country calls us to duty. Many of our neighbors pour their lives and professions into benefiting us.
However, the first half of the moral law, “Loving God with all our being”, is more difficult to comprehend and to fulfill. It is an anomalous idea in a materialistic, humanistic society where the secular dismiss and the religious are confused about the reality of God, where the doctrine of God’s direct involvement in a person’s life is considered an absurdity, where relativism eschews the thought of God’s absolute, moral authority to define how to live healthy, enjoyable lives, and where independence, self worth, self affirmation, self fulfillment and self-aggrandization are promoted as our ultimate purpose, The thought of Sovereign God and of “serving” Him has become total gobbledygook.
We can serve self or someone else or some other purpose on our own terms and for our own reasons but not God. Servanthood is not a matter of convenience but is the choice to be God’s new creation. “The just shall live by faith.” (Roman 1:17) Such faith comes through repentance and belief in the reconciliatory work of Christ on our behalf and obedience to His authority. That means accepting God’s grace and living it, learning how to walk as Christ walked, thinking as he thought and taught, being humble and submissive, giving grace and mercy, being sensitive and compassionate, denying self, even loving enemies and persecutors, granting and seeking forgiveness, being peaceful and seeking peace and not being vengeanceful, enduring in faith, and being confident that God will bring ultimate justice. Such a journey of transformed thinking and behavior is demanding, halting, stuttering, but hopefully progressive.
From our beginnings we have chosen to live as we want! Living to magnify God, to act in the Name of God and not in the name of self, and to honor a relationship in which Jesus is Lord requires more than determination. It requires the presence of God in our lives. He desires for us to know Him first. Then the prophet Micah gives us the clue to serving Him: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
At our end, when faced with the summation of our lives, the question will not be whether we lived within the context of common good but whether we lived in the larger context of knowing God and serving His purposes for us and becoming who we are meant to be.
“….whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)