The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 225)

Serving in Love

Christian Living

A young woman had just gotten married and she lived with her husband in a cosy small apartment which she called 'heaven'. They enjoyed each other's company so much that she wished their honeymoon would never end. One day, her father-in-law passed away and her mother-in-law moved in to stay with them. That was when the tranquil atmosphere in their home disappeared completely. The two women were highly critical of each other and could not see eye to eye. Things began to fall apart with each blaming the other for lack of patience, love and compassion. The situation became so intolerable for the younger woman that she decided to do something about it.

She went to the medicine man and confided her woes to him. The man asked her what she wanted him to do for her. To that she replied, “Can you give me something to feed my mother-in-law so that her tongue will not be so pointed, her eyes will not be so sharp and her heart will not be so twisted?” The medicine man said, “I have a solution for you.” He went into his shop and came back with a bag of herbs. “Take these packets of herbs home and boil soup for your mother-in-law each week. After six months you will get the effect you desire. But in order not to make her suspicious of what you are doing to her, you must change your attitude and behaviour in front of her. Speak to her softly and kindly, respect her views and be gentle with her. If you do that, she will be happy to accept what you offer her. Remember, serve her as best as you can. Come back to see me after six months and let me know the result.”

The young woman went home and did exactly as she was told. Her mother-in-law really played into her hands and began to accept her offer each week. Her attitude towards her daughter-in-law began to change. Instead of sharp criticisms, she gave good advice; instead of complaints, she began to accept the way things were being done in the household. The quarrels they once had turned into friendly exchanges and the harsh words were filtered out from their conversations. All the people around them praised the young woman for being so kind and loving to her mother-in-law. After six months the young woman began to treat her mother-in-law as her own mother and willingly served her without murmuring.

Suddenly she remembered her wicked wish to harm her mother-in-law and she rushed to the medicine man to ask for the antidote to the poisonous herbs that she had been feeding her. She told the man, “After taking the herbs I gave her, my mother-in-law has changed into another person. She no longer treats me as an enemy but loves me like her own daughter. I do not wish anything bad to happen to her.” The man smiled and said, “There is no poison in the herbs; they are only health supplements. They will not kill her. Just go home and continue to serve her with love and kindness and everything will be well.”

Serving Without Love
We may laugh at such a silly story, but how true it is that we often serve people with ulterior motives. We act hypocritically to mask our selfish purposes. Even in the service of God, consciously or subconsciously we are serving with motives and attitudes other than out of the love for God. The best illustration is the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

After the younger son had repented and returned home, his elder brother revealed his true self to his father by saying, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him” (Lk 15:29-30).

What was this older son really saying to his father?
He was saying, “Look father, I have been serving you all my life. I go to the field early in the morning and come back late in the evening. You put me in charge of your business and I have done it faithfully. I proved to you that I am worthy of your trust so that you will not regret entrusting your business to me. I am not only hardworking, I am also obedient to your commandments. I expect you to give me a nice tender young goat to enjoy with my friends so that they will praise me and think highly of me for my ability to do well in growing your business. You should be proud of me but you did not reward me according to my wishes.” In his opinion, his father only treated him as a manager in his business and not as a son he loved in the family.

What was his attitude towards his brother?
He showed his contempt towards his brother by calling him “this son of yours” without even mentioning his name. He said to his father, “That useless, good-for-nothing fella has come back and you welcome him home with the best of the fattened calves to celebrate his return with your friends. Even if he has repented and come home, you should not treat him better than you have treated me. You should make him the lowest of all the servants and teach him to work hard to gain our trust. What right has he got to be restored to his sonship and to enjoy all the good things that he has no part in?”

How does he look at himself in this household?
He was in fact saying to the father “If I don't work so hard, your business will collapse. You depend on me and I am very important to you. I am indispensable in this household. I am disappointed with your judgment and angry with this son of yours.”

From the way he spoke with his father we know that he had no loving relationship with him at all, only a working relationship for his own interests. He did not share his father's concern and love. He saw everything from his own selfish perspective. How often have we served God with all the wrong motives and attitudes like this older son?

We serve God to gain His blessings or to impress others so that they may think that we are exemplary Christians. Sometimes we serve in a particular ministry because we want to belong to that group and not be left out. Or we think that if we do not serve in that area, the ministry will collapse. Our idea of serving Jesus is to get involved in the ministries of the church. Does God save us because He wants something from us? Honestly, what can mere mortals offer to the infinitely powerful Creator to Whom they owe their very existence?

Serving in Love
Jesus said in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The background to this verse was that two of His disciples came to Him asking Him to grant them to sit at His left and right when He became King. In other words, they wanted recognition and glory in serving Christ. Jesus reminded them that if they wanted to be great, they needed to start serving others. That was not their idea of greatness. So, Jesus told them that He did not come to be served by His subjects but to serve them.

In what ways does Jesus serve us?
'The Son of Man' is a title given to the second person of the Godhead. In other words, He is God Himself, full of authority, glory, splendour, power and might. Yet He forsook all these to 'come' into our physical world and to become one of us, with a mission. It is like a King coming to pay a visit to our humble home. What should we do as His subjects? We should treat Him with honour and favour. We would serve Him with the best we have to make Him feel comfortable and welcome.

But He said that He came 'not to be served'. What a surprising statement! He does not demand our service, He does not need us to do anything for Him. In fact, we are unable to do anything for Him for He is self-sufficient and powerful enough to have anything He wants done. More surprisingly He said, “...but to serve”. He came to serve us by doing something for us that we are unable to do for ourselves. He says, “Follow Me and I will serve you.” His coming to this world is all about His service towards us. What then is His service? “...and to give His life as a ransom for many.” That is His service!

In order to understand this statement, we return to the time when God created Heaven and Earth. Adam was created a sinless and just man. God's command to him was that if he lived in obedience to His law, he shall live; but if he violated His law he shall die. Adam's disobedience plunged him into a sinful state and we all inherited his sinful nature. We need to revert to the position when Adam was first made — righteous before God.

Christ came to die for our sins by taking all of God's wrath against us upon Himself when He died on the cross at Calvary. But there is much more! What about obeying God's command? We can never live a righteous and sinless life before God in order to maintain fellowship with Him. Christ came to live a perfectly righteous life and then impute that righteousness on those who follow Him. Now God looks at those who put their trust in Christ as though they are men walking in perfect obedience to His command.

Christ served us not only with His earthly life and His death, but He continues to serve us presently in His resurrected life by interceding for us before the throne of God. He acts as our Advocate and Mediator. That is how complete His sacrificial and loving service is for us when He said, “...and to give His life a ransom for many.”

What does Christ ransom us for? Or more importantly, who does Christ ransom us to be?
First, Christ ransomed us to be His friend. In John 15:15 He said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Before a person is saved by Christ, he is an enemy of God, hating everything God loves and loving everything God hates. He is raging against God every moment of his life. Christ saved him and changed him into a man who longs to walk in the way of righteousness. He never treats us as servants because servants do not know anything about the Master. He tells us everything through His written Word. He treats us as friends.

Friendship is a relationship of trust and sharing. He is a Friend who gave His life to ransom us and now He gives us a chance to work with Him as His friends in His vineyard. All the work we are called to do for Him becomes meaningful and joyful. Our attitude will be different when we are working with a good Friend, Whom we trust. He never treats us as pairs of extra hands but as people He loves.

Second, He ransomed us to be His bride. Before a person is saved by Christ he is a slave to sin (Rom 6:20). After he is saved, Christ places him into His Church, His Bride. The Church is the Bride of the coming King. Now the relationship moves one step further – a relationship of love and joy. We will do anything for our loved ones and serve them in love. No sacrifice is too great for the one you love.

We should treat all that we do for the Lord as service for the King who loves us and gave Himself to save us. Whatever He calls us to do, be it at home, at work, in school or in church, we do it willingly and with love, not grudgingly or sloppily. If He calls you into any ministry, serve Him in love and with gratitude that He finds you worthy to serve Him there.

Third, He ransomed us to be His brethren. When Christ the only beloved Son of God died for us, He made us adopted sons of God, Who has Himself become our heavenly Father. We become His brethren (Rom 8:15-17) and we are in a family business with Him. This is a relationship of loyalty and honesty.

We are all in the same spiritual family. When someone is sick, Christ wants to comfort him through us. So, we go to render our help to his family; we go to visit him and comfort him in a way that Christ would have done joyfully and willingly. When we serve God to bring joy and comfort into others' lives, we are serving in a family business with our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ.

We serve God because Christ has first served us to make us His friends, His Bride and His brethren so that we are fit to be of service to God.

Jesus did not tell us what the older brother in the parable did after hearing the father say, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found” (Lk 15:31-32).

Fattened calf or young goat, or even this whole estate means nothing compared to a soul that was dead and is now alive. Was he touched by his father's love for both of them and went home to celebrate with the rest, or did he continue to sit outside to show his displeasure? We do not know. Just imagine the next morning, when the father woke up and saw from his window his two sons working happily hand in hand in the field, just as in the days gone by. How joyful he would have been to see both of them changed from unwilling servants to members of the same family serving in love in the family business.

Next time you feel unhappy in your service, ask yourself these questions:

“Do I have the right view of God?”
“Do I have the right motive in my service?”
“Do I think too highly of myself?”
“Do I see myself as Christ's friend, a part of the Bride of the King, and member of God's household?”

Dixie Chua
- Dixie Chua is an editor of Fishers.

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