Over the past few weeks in my small group we’ve been working through the ‘Celebration of Discipline’ by Richard Foster together, which has been challenging and great to look at as part of a group.
This week we’re looking at the whole idea of service; what the Bible says about this, what Jesus’ example was and how we use this to shape our lives today.
To start with, we look at the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at the Passover meal. You may have come across this story before; the disciples are all together for a meal and Jesus gets a towel and a bowl of water out and starts washing his disciples’ feet. The worst job around, the one reserved for the lowest servant possible- Jesus got on and did it. Great, Jesus washed their feet.
Well, here’s what… Jesus says (in John 13:14-15)
‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.’ (NIV)
Jesus isn’t saying we need to go around today washing everyone’s feet; he’s saying ‘look, I got down and did the worst job around, the job reserved for the lowest servant- you need to do the same’. In the same way, we need to be getting on with the jobs that no one else wants to do, the jobs that are seen as boring, maybe disgusting; the jobs no one will even see us doing.
And this is where it’s so important that we’re serving with the right heart. In his book, Foster talks about self-righteous service versus true service and draws a whole load of comparisons between the motives of self-righteous service and true service. He suggests that self-righteous service is carried out through human efforts whereas true service comes out of a real relationship with God.
Ultimately, service comes out of relationships; true service comes out of a relationship with God and true service leads to a building up of community and strengthening of relationships with others. On the other hand, self-righteous service focuses on the building up of an individual and the glory that is brought to them through their actions.
I’m not saying I’ve got this sorted; Foster has a couple of pages in his book looking at a whole load of comparisons which can really challenge us as we look at serving others, serving our communities, serving communities around the world and ultimately serving God. I think a great way of making our lives an expression of true service is to make service a lifestyle; not a ‘pick- and-choose who to serve today’ type attitude, but rather being aware of and responding to needs we see all around us.
And this will have to be a constant choice, to choose every day to serve out of our love for God and out of our love for those around us. And as we do this we will see our communities being built up and see God’s kingdom being revealed in these places.