Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Life of Service

Serving others is one of the great hallmarks of the Christian life. But before it can be fully embraced and incorporated into life, it is first important to understand whom it is that we serve, what it is that we serve, and to what end. Why do we do what we do? Otherwise it can be easy to lose focus, become distracted and knocked off course. Scripture says that where there is no vision, the people will perish, and so let us contend for the faith, get ahold of the vision of service, and walk in it. 

This is a bumper sticker that is produced and sold by an organization called The American Humanist Association. This is what their website says about them:

We strive to bring about a progressive society where being “good without god” is an accepted way to live life. We are accomplishing this through our defense of civil liberties and secular governance, by our outreach to the growing number of people without religious belief or preference, and through a continued refinement and advancement of the humanist worldview.
Bordered on one side by the transcendental views of traditional religions and mythologies and on the other by atheism and secularism, the values we hold are grounded in the philosophy of the Enlightenment, informed by scientific knowledge, and driven by a desire to meet the needs of people in the here and now.
We count humanists and other nontheists as the core of our movement but are always willing to work with friends and allies on issues of common concern.  The positions we hold and the actions we take are not simply for our own benefit, but for the betterment of all of society.
This organization argues that people are fundamentally good in and of themselves and can essentially work together for the betterment of society by their own good intentions. There are several problems with this, though:

1. People are not fundamentally good in and of themselves. Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” If this is what the Creator sees of us, how can we possibly think that we can do good all by ourselves?

2. Good is relative. The line of good is pushed and swayed by whatever is acceptable by culture for that time period. The definition is based on what the majority says. Scripture says that there is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death. Even the AHA website says that their worldview is continually being refined and advanced. If we are not basing our directions, our decisions, and our definitions on what Scripture has laid out for us, how will they stand against the shifting sands of time?

I am currently reading the Gayle Haggard’s book called, “Why I Stayed.” For those who don’t know the story, her husband is Ted Haggard. Up until the end of 2006, he was the senior pastor of a 14,000-member mega-church in Colorado Springs. In November of 2006, it was discovered that he had fallen into great sin, including sexual immorality, infidelity, and illegal drug use. The fall of a godly man such as Ted Haggard is overwhelmingly tragic, but what really breaks my heart, was the church’s response to it all.

There was a board of overseers in place to hold him accountable, which is good and biblical. But it strayed from biblical when he was not only removed from leadership (which was called for), but he was also removed from the fellowship of the church. He was essentially put into exile and not allowed to be a part of the body of Christ.

Gayle Haggard writes in her book that she kept waiting for the Church to show forgiveness, to show grace. She kept waiting for the body of Christ to welcome them back into the fellowship, based on Scripture. She was looking at Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth, when he wrote about the church’s need to welcome back in a previously unrepentant sinner.

Paul wrote, “The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.”

She was looking for the church to step into role, and yet they didn’t. There was no one among them who was willing to step up and shout out, “Wait a minute! What we are doing does not line up with Scripture!”

See, there is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death. Good is relative. The Word of God is not. We cannot rely on our own goodness to serve others, which leads us to the third point.

3. Being good to others without the shadow of the cross in your life will always place self first. It looks like this: I’ll take care of me and my family first and then from whatever I have left over, I’ll serve others. From whatever money, time and energy I have left over at the end of my crazy days, I’ll serve others.”

But that wasn’t the way of Christ. Christ never placed himself first, even though He had every reason in the world to do so. Even in His darkest hour, He still humbled himself to say, “Not my will, but your will be done.” Christ teaches us sacrifice. This is what separates followers of Christ from anyone else in the world. He teaches us to put others first, and our own needs second.

As wives and mothers of young children, I know it already feels like we put everyone else before ourselves. We take care of our husbands and our children to the point of exhaustion.

I clothe the naked every morning as my little ones jump out of their pajamas and run around the house in nothing more than the beautiful skin God gave them. I feed the hungry several times a day as tiny mouths open wide like baby birds waiting for their mouths to be filled.

But is that really what Christ was talking about? Are we really serving the least of these of brothers of His? Who are the least of these?

As a mom, I look at my three angels and am overwhelmed at their potential in this life. What will God do with them? What is His calling for them?  What is my vision for my children? Do I want them to be good, church-going kids who turn into responsible citizens, or do I want them to be world changers, radically in love with Jesus? And just as the King of kings changed the world by sacrificing everything, I want to model for my children what that looks like.

So what does that look like?

More tomorrow to come...

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  1. I just wrote a long comment and it disappeared into cyberspace...I'll try to re-write it later.
    On another note, I just read an article/interview with Gayle Haggard and it stirred my heart. I can't wait to read the book.

  2. I look forward to your comments tomorrow.
    I too struggle with this idea of service and sacrifice. I want to be an active and intentional world changer for Christ. But honestly, there are times I don't even leave the house for days on end, let alone have an intentional interaction. But I know for certain that if I fail in my role as a wife and mom that I have failed in a very grave way (and an unbiblical way).
    I do not, however, think that serving as a wife and mom and "serving others" are mutually exclusive. And that's the true beauty of it...when we are simultaneously serving our families and serving others it is, perhaps, the most effective and life changing "service."
    Can't wait for your additional insight.


Thoughts? Feel welcome to share...