For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45.
Without the Gospel, serving will destroy you.
We are called to be servants. Commanded to be servants. Jesus demonstrated service in every aspect of his life and especially in his death. Look at the Fighter Verse- Jesus came to serve and to serve through his substitutionary death. A death that reminds us that we are both wicked and loved. So wicked that Christ had to die for us. So loved that he gladly gave up his life for us.
And that is the truth that will set us free- free to serve.
Serving without remembering the gospel will lead to one of two destructive mindsets:
1) You will despise the very people you are serving.
Let’s be honest, often the people we serve are not thankful. They don’t reciprocate. There is no appreciation. Or there is no effort to grow or change. No effort on their part to overcome the very problem that you are trying to solve.
As a result we end up judging those we serve. We look down on them. We even disdain them after a while. As a school teacher I saw this all the time. So many teachers complain about and ridicule their students and the parents they are called to be serving. A calling that requires so much sacrifice leaves many teachers judgmental and frankly prideful towards those they used to love. This is a temptation in pastoral ministry too.
The gospel can cure us of this mindset. The gospel reminds me that I am just as needy and desperate as the downtrodden that I am trying to serve. Jesus HAD to die for me too. I need as much grace as Blind Bartimaeus.
The gospel’s forgiveness and grace allows me to be able to pour love into people without expecting anything in return. I don’t need reciprocation. I don’t need a trophy. I am God’s trophy of grace.
The gospel also reminds me that until Christ returns “the poor you will always have with you.” Sin is still a powerful force in all of us and in the world’s system, and this should not surprise me or cause me to despair. It should not cause me to be “weary in well doing.” The hope of the resurrection frees me from the hope of the gratitude and glory that I expect from those I am serving here on earth.
2) You will despise yourself.
Serving others without a gospel mindset can also cause us to despise ourselves. To feel hopeless. It can become a way to earn grace or to earn favor with God and others that leaves you feeling inadequate no matter how much you do to help others.
"Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself -- for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead.”
These words were written by Mother Teresa. The woman who spent so much of her life serving the poor felt incredible spiritual despair for most of her life. Even though she modeled her life after the service of Christ, she often felt that her work fell short and it left her empty.
The gospel alone can free us of this despair of the self. Notice how Mother Teresa fears that she may “spoil the work of the Lord.” The gospel does not allow us to feel this way. The work of the Lord is complete in the cross. It cannot be spoiled. It cannot fail. We are more than conquerors. Despite our failings or short comings.
If you are trying to earn grace through service, then service will destroy you. But if you know that you have already received the fullness of God by His grace, then service will empower you in that grace.
So should we serve? Yes. Christ commands it.
But Christ and his unconditional grace full and free also empowers it.
So serve with the truth of the gospel around your neck. Gird your loins with it and write it on your heart. Otherwise serving will become your slave master.