The High Call of Serving
Lowly and spiritual and glorious beyond imagining.
The words of Jesus echoed in the minds of Christians in the early Church as she began to carry out her mission. What she was called to do and how she was called to do it had been defined by her head, who is Christ. Whether it was in the tavern amidst travelers, in the city center with friends, in the home amongst family, or in the marketplace with colleagues, Jesus Christ had redefined every relationship.
He had told his disciples to keep and obey every commandment he gave to them. These commandments were heard by the Apostle Peter throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, and no doubt absorbed as he sat close to Jesus during The Farewell Discourse, a scene that began with Jesus disrobing to the level of the lowliest servant in order to wash the feet of his closest friends (John 13-17). After completing this act he resumed his place at the table and said, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
In his letter to the elect exiles, Peter issues this word, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). There are two things I would like to point out in this verse.
The first is that all who are in Christ have received a gift, or gifts, from the Father. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the Apostle Paul lists several of these gifts including wisdom, knowledge, and faith. And in 1 Peter 4:11, Peter divides the gifts of God into two main categories: the gifts of speaking and the gifts of service.
This leads me to my second point. Regardless of the what, whether one is given a gift of speaking or a gift of service, the how remains the same. Regardless of what gift God has given you, you are called to use it as a servant.
The reasoning behind this is simple enough. What we have is not our own, but was bought with a price and received as a gift. A gift we are to steward unto the glory of God.
In our cultural moment and in a place like D.C., the summons to serve is somewhat unsettling. It assumes surrendering power we would wish to sustain. It means risking the prestige we would like to attain. And it means dying to an image we might wish to maintain.
Let me say two things in response to these fears. First, the model of stewardship is consistent with reality. If Jesus is Lord of all, then stewarding what you are given as he has commanded you is consonant with the deepest depths of reality. You cannot sustain power, attain a promotion, or maintain an image, if he does not will it. In this way, you have nothing to fear.
Second, and this is as important as the first, when you serve one another you are engaging in the very intimate act of Jesus Christ as he prepared to go to the cross.
The Christian act of service is paradoxical. On the one hand, we are to serve one another as lowly servants. On the other hand, by serving one another as lowly servants we are participating in and with our glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. With this paradoxical nature in mind, let us not think that serving is beneath any of us. It is spiritual and glorious beyond imagining.
At the beginning of the The Farewell Discourse, Jesus told his disciples that if they loved one another as he loved them, the whole world would know that they were his disciples. Let us remember the words of Jesus. Let us show the world the love it needs through serving one another with the gifts God has given us.
Will Stockdale is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C. and co-host of The Will & Rob Show.