The Lesson Of Service
By J. R. Miller (1840 – 1912)
Jesus taught that we should live, not to be served – but to serve (Matt. 20:25-28).
Just what is the lesson that our Lord sets before us? It is, in a word, so to relate ourselves to others that our chief thought concerning them shall be – not how we may get pleasure, profit, honor, or advancement from them for ourselves – but how we may do them good or put honor upon them. If we have this mindset, we shall see in every person who comes within the circle of our life one to whom we owe love and service.
God has so ordered that we cannot love and serve Him, and not also love and serve our fellow men. Jesus made this very plain in His picture of the last judgment, when He said that He is hungry – in every hungry little one of His; that He is sick – in every least one of His who is sick; that in the stranger who comes to our door – He stands before us, waiting for the hospitality of love. In serving His people, we are serving Him; in neglecting His people, we neglect Him (see Matthew 25:31-46).
We cannot fulfill our duty of loving Christ and serving Him, while we ignore our fellow men. He accepts no such service. If we say we love Him – He points to the needy, the hungry, the sick, the burdened ones, the suffering all around us, and says: “Show your love to My people. Serve them in My name. Look at each one of them as if I were Myself the one in pain or need – and do for these, My brethren, just what you would do for Me if I were actually in their condition.”
We cannot get away from this relationship to Christ. It binds us to every other life. To act selfishly toward a believer is to act selfishly toward Christ. To neglect any who need our help is to neglect Christ Himself. To do good to any in Christ’s name is to serve Christ Himself.
Every Life Is Sacred
If only we understood that Christ Himself is with us still and always, not only in His spiritual presence, but in the person of every needy or suffering one who belongs to Him, it would transform all life for us, putting glory into the commonest lives, and the splendor of angel service into the lowliest ministry. How sacred it would make all life if we saw Christ in everyone who comes to us in any need!
This teaching invests every life with a sacredness, which to disregard is a sacrilege. We dare not pass by anyone carelessly. We know not to whom we may have a duty of love. The stranger whom mere seeming chance brings into our presence for an hour, may have been sent to us that in some way we may serve him. We are always safe in assuming that we have an errand of love to everyone we meet.
We need not announce our mission, and we must never display ostentation in the discharge of our duty of love. We need only to hold ourselves in readiness, with all of love’s humility, alacrity, and gentleness, to do whatever heart or hand may find to do in serving him. Our duty to him may be nothing more than the showing of kindness in our manner, the giving of a hearty salutation, or the inspiration of a cheerful countenance. But however small the service may be which it is ours to render, it is a divine ministry, and its value to the person we never may know.
Love Flows into Action
No mere theoretical acknowledgment of this universal obligation of man to man will avail. Fine sentiment is not enough; we must get the sentiment into practical life. We must bring our visions down out of ethereal mists into something substantial and real. We must let the love of our heart flow out in life and act and helpful ministry.
The teaching of Christ shows that it is our business, that we are under obligation to love and serve all men. We are debtor to every man; we may not owe him money, but we owe him love, and love means whatever help he needs – bread for his hunger, or sympathy and cheer in his trial and struggle. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” (Rom. 13:8).
If we but look at people always in this way, we shall find ourselves asking concerning everyone we meet: “How can I be a help to this person? What does God want me to do for him?” We certainly have some errand of love to everyone who crosses our path. We owe him at least a kindly greeting, a pleasant word. Perhaps we cannot do for him what he wants us to do, but we can at least treat him kindly.
We have it in our power to put untold gladness and help into the lives that touch ours every day. We can learn this divine lesson of service by regarding every person we meet as one to whom we are sent on an errand of love. This attitude toward others will put an end to all pride and haughtiness. We shall no more set ourselves up on little pedestals of self-conceit, demanding homage from others; rather, like our Master, we shall stand with basin and towel, ready to wash the feet of the lowliest. We shall no more think ourselves too good to perform the humblest ministries to the poorest, but shall consider it the highest honor to do the things that are least; for Jesus has said he is chief who serves the most (see Luke 22:26).
– Taken from Things To Live For by J. R. Miller. www.gracegems.org