By viewing any task as “beneath” us or “not worth our time” we are in so few words placing ourselves in a position above Christ and making the implied claim that were are better than Him. Ministry should never be selective.
Life goes on as usual or at least as usual as it can for a “middle twenties” Christian Theist trying to further know and walk with God. I have been spending the summer working at Village Creek Bible Camp, a place where I have in the past invested my summers and time. The summer began unlike many of the previous holding much uncertainty in regard to my position and how long I would perform it. In light of the ambiguity of my situation I decided to work with an open mind and willingness to do whatever task asked of me. This was very different, as I have always seen “service” as serving in areas that you are personally good at. Oh how faulty my thinking was! The truth was I was taking my feelings of not wanting to do the undesirable and rationalizing why I was justified in not wanting to do it. Where I believe now that we are gifted with specific abilities on a larger level, I also believe that at the same time there are many ways in which anybody can serve. You do not have to be specifically gifted to clean a toilet or wash dishes, those are things that most of us can easily do. This was a new place for me to be as there were many times at camp that I would put more work into getting out of an assignment than the time the assignment itself actually took. I opened myself up, and while it was hard at first, I began to not mind doing dishes, or cleaning toilets, serving started to be made my own. I had never been the best servant and I knew that, but I finally came to experience what it meant and felt to allow Christ to serve fully through me. All that in mind it seemed as if serving became one of my themes for the summer.
The idea of being a servant is one that floats around a lot within the Christian culture. The unfortunate reality though is it is a concept that is generally more talk than walk. How far are we willing to go in our attitudes of service? What toilets and dishes are we avoiding in our daily lives? Of course I am using those as examples but it really is not far off base and can apply in many respects. When I think of the life of Christ one of His missions was essentially to “wash the dishes”. Christ came to Earth, this dirty messed up place, humbling Himself to become one of us very humans, so that He could make the dirty clean. The brilliant thing is that not only did He make a way for us to be clean, but He now works through believers to continue doing the cleaning. This line of thinking eventually led me to reading John chapter thirteen. In this chapter there is a series verses many of us have heard time and time again. It may or may not be the same for you, but I know many of the prior times I had heard these verses I allowed them to slip out just as fast as they slipped in.
John 13: 1-20(ESV)- 1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
There is a deep significance to these verses that I had so often allowed to fade into the subtlety of my mind and thinking. Christ came to wash the feet, the dishes, and to quit speaking figuratively the sin of this world. This is God. God! I know we say it over and over that God came to Earth in the form of a man but how often do we allow it to register the fully implications of that? Out of the love of God Christ came to Earth to clean up the mess that no one would or even could. The second part to Christ coming to right what went wrong was to enable us to allow Him to do the same personally through us. He was the definite article of an “example” so that we could do the things He did. In my finite mind I can hardly comprehend having the power of the universe and stooping down to the lowest of low, becoming one of them, and putting my neck on the line between those who loved and hated me. I have a friend who is the director of a ministry that I very often have seen this in. This person has one of the highest positions yet so often they stoop down to do dishes, to do the work that needs to be done with no one else to do it. As I think about serving I think about this person. That was the sort of person Christ was and he continues it through those who believe and follow Him. This is how Christ wants us to serve! We are his body, his physical representatives until H returns.
Why do we allow ourselves to believe serving is beneath us? Why do we warp our perspective on what it means to serve? How can we ever expect to serve in the big things when we cannot even serve in the small? While we will never be able to do everything anyone asks us, we need to accept that there is whole lot more we could likely be doing. It is more about not being selective in how we choose or want to serve. It would do many leaders in the Christian culture good to lower their selves to cleaning what needs clean or serving out of the spotlight. If you looked for volunteers amongst believers to preach a sermon or lead a Bible study there would be a substantial amount more than those hands that would rise to do a task of little to no earthly glory or acknowledgement. I know because I have been there and it is a pattern I have seen over and over. At camp for example we are given regularly opportunities to volunteer for assignments. At the mention of ones that would be considered “fun” or “front and center” many people would be eager to serve and be a part of them. The opposite would happen when assignments such as dishes, toilets, and getting your hands dirty would be brought up. I think instances like that are fantastic illustrations of how we as believers look at serving. My thinking has begun to drastically change this summer because of looking at it this way. As I started to take on these tasks joyfully and humbly I found them to be tolerable and even eventually enjoyable. The key to it was following, understanding, and knowing that example of Christ which lead me to this point. In the past I had seen them from the perspective of my flesh and the what’s and when’s regarding what “I” wanted to do. Naturally attempting to serve in the flesh would be a miserable process because our flesh is in direct opposition to the things Christ is for.
The key to service, to serving like Christ, goes back to our views and understanding of positional truth. Our lives are not our lives and upon accepting Christ that is our terms of agreement. We cannot walk and grow in Christ if we do anything opposite of those terms. So what is the process, how do we do it? We just do it. The first thing obviously falls under our lines of thinking and how we view Christ working through us. What we believe will dictate how we act. That means sometimes we are going to have to wash some feet, or some dishes, or even things we would rather never do, because we are not living by what “we” want to do, but what “He” wants to do with us. We can by all means limit that, but we would in turn limit Him also. This summer I have truly learned the value of service and being all in one hundred percent. Will I always master it? Probably not! Like any other aspect of walking with the Lord it is a moment by moment step by step process that has to be taken and thought through as situations arise. Ministry is not about our agendas but His, and if that means doing some things that are not so pretty or what we would rather not do we should be willing to do them. Does that mean I will always have that sort of work? Absolutely not! My service at camp has been a range of things I am good at to that which anyone can do, so it is about the willingness to do all things and not just some. My summer could have been in a number of things wasting time and earning a lot more money, but it was not, and as such the things He is teaching me is worth far more than the materials or ideal circumstances my flesh could have ever hoped to have. I am still learning, but the day I know how to do it all, I might as well stop.