In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like radar malfunction–or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late. (Illustration from Sermoncentral.com).
Unfortunately, we see too much of this in our world that tells us that to serve others is a sign of weakness. Our fragile ego’s tend to be more concerned with public perception than with righteousness. Our fear of shame outweighs the joy we should be feeling by helping someone in need.
Paul foresaw this tendency when he wrote to the Galatians saying, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Paul knew that to live in harmony with one another, we must be willing to be a servant to one another.
Imagine if that were the world’s mindset. Imagine if we were more concerned about serving each other than we are to serve ourselves. What would that do for world hunger, wars, segregation, racism, unfair labor practices and a myriad of others problems we’re forced to face everyday because of our unwillingness to attend to each other’s needs.
As Christians, we must come to understand that when we are a servant to each other we are a servant to Christ. By His own example, He became the ideal image of the faithful servant even to the point of dying on a cross so that we might live eternally. Even Christ Himself, the very Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, the Word made flesh, saw Himself more as a servant than anything else. From Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
So, to be a servant means to put on godliness. What does this mean? We hear it in Colossians 3:12, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,”
First, to be a servant in the Christlike sense, we must have compassionate hearts. A compassionate heart is one that sees the needs of others and acts upon those needs. A compassionate heart seeks out ways to serve others, never being content with doing as little as possible to quench whatever desire we might have help others in their time of hardship. A compassionate heart longs to share the bounty of what God has given with others who find themselves in distress.
In Ephesians 4:32 we learn to, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Kindness is a sibling to righteousness because it always longs to do the right thing, even if it means that the one showing kindness might have to do with less because of that kindness. Kindness doesn’t hold on to anger or discontent. It practices forgiveness as a virtue and works to emulate Christ in every way.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He made this startling statement in Matthew 5:5 saying, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” In worldly terms, this seems not to make sense. But in heavenly terms it makes all the sense in the world. In the world, meekness is seen as weakness, but those in faith understand that meekness is only for the strong because it takes strength to serve others before yourself. It takes strength not to lash out in anger when you’ve been wronged. In real terms, meekness is the strength within servanthood.
Finally, the servant is to show patience. This can be the hardest goal of all. Paul says in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” It can be tempting to lose faith when your efforts in righteousness seem to bear little fruit, but any servant of Christ is called to be persistent in that righteousness and not give up. In the end, the faithful will reap a harvest of blessings in this life and/or the next. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, help us to be faithful servants as we live each day as Your children. Instill in us the want and passion to serve others before ourselves and forgive us when we have failed in the past to be examples of Your mercy and grace. Amen.