"It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant." - Matthew 20:26
Why does God require us to be servants? Why does he elevate service as one of the greatest character traits in His Kingdom? We can be sure that God does not need our service. He is an all sufficient God in need of nothing. It might be better to think of God in this way: He does not need our service, but He needs to serve.
If God’s ultimate goal for us is to conform us into the image of Christ, who is the ultimate image of God, and if Christ (being God) is a servant who needs to serve, then it would make sense that to be like Christ is to serve. To be greatest is to be least. To be strong is to be weak. To be exalted comes from being made lower still.
God wants to save us from our self- centered focus and develop in us a Christ centered focus. To accomplish this, we have been crucified with Christ. We have died to the self, the flesh. Self- absorption is what prevents us from being Christ centered. From loving God and others.
Some of us are self- absorbed through what I might call self repression. Others through self obsession. Self repression occurs as we repress or deny certain parts of our lives, our pasts, our personalities in order to escape painful feelings and memories. Doing this prevents us from being able to truly serve others. We turn to withdrawal in order to meet our own needs?
Others are self- obsessed. The more they discover about themselves the more mean and bitter they become. Or maybe they just enjoy being the center of attention. Every interaction with others is an opportunity to judge and criticize in their own minds. They have turned to anger because others won’t meet their needs?
Christ sets us free from self. In fact we have died to self. We now have a new self. We are united to Christ. And here is the truth: our self focus now IS a Christ focus. The Christian’s life is “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). This is the great new reality in which we live! We have a new identity that is given to us by God himself. No more self- absorption through self repression or self obsession. Jesus’ life is now my life.
Let me try to say it another way- Christ gives me a vertical focus to go along with my horizontal focus. He does not remove the horizontal focus. We do not stop focusing on the horizontal relationships, circumstances, gifts, passions, experiences, personality, etc, that make me who I am. But now I interpret all of these in light of my added vertical focus. When all we have is the horizontal we become self-absorbed and are unable to serve others. When Christ adds the vertical, heavenly mindset, we now have a true perspective. We can now see that all of life is service. It is overflow. It is faith. It is Christ’s life.
What does this horizontal self focus joined to a vertical Christ focus look like? Here’s a few examples:
1. When I experience pain and suffering I don’t deny it (self repression) or blame others (self obsession). Rather I see it in light of how God may be working in it to bring Christ’s life to the forefront.
2. When I acquire possessions and material things I don’t see them as eternally valuable or as my identity. Rather I see them as a means to an end. A gift to be used to reach others for Christ and serve others.
3. When I have an unmet need such as produces loneliness I don’t expect others to meet this need. I don’t feel self- pity. I feel a deeper longing for God and His affections. I look for ways to find connection through the church- God’s gift to me.
4. When I am treated as unimportant or unaccepted I don’t fret about what others think of me. I am less concerned with what others think and more concerned about serving others. My union with Christ grants me importance and acceptance eternally.
5. When I sin I am neither shocked nor dismayed. I feel the guilt of my actions because I am actually guilty. But I allow Christ to remove all shame. Shame keeps me distant from others. It destroys the motivation to serve others. Christ allows me to focus on others rather than on the shame of my past failures (whether they are 5 minutes ago or 50 years ago).
Why does God elevate service? Because it is who He is. It is his likeness in us. And because it is what heals us of our sinful self- absorption. It frees us to be what we were created to be.
*Many of the today’s thoughts come from Walking In Victory by Dennis McCallum.