Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58)
As Christians we are called to serve others. We are called to serve God (1 Sam 12:24, Deut 13:4, Jn 12:26, Rom 12:11), our family (1 Tim 5:8), our neighbor (Mk 9:35), even our enemies (Lk 6:27-28). Some find service comes naturally to them; others, and I think most of us fall into this category to some degree or another, have to work at it.
Service comes in as many shapes and sizes as there are people and places to serve in the world. Here are a few ideas:
Volunteering at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen
Long or short term mission trips
Walking a pet
Visiting the elderly or shut-ins
Helping out at your local church
Washing a car
Running errands for a friend
Shoveling snow or mowing grass
Teaching new skills to others
And this is just a scratch on the tip of the ice berg. My point here is that there is no shortage of opportunity to serve and we all have skills and gifts can make us a great fit for something somewhere.
When to serve is as varied as how to serve. There is not a set time or place in which to best serve. In fact, some of the best experiences are when the opportunity arises with little to no warning. Something amazing happens in our hearts when we are able to take our minds off of ourselves and step up and take action to help another person. There is also something to be said if you can do something for someone where they don’t know and won’t know who did it for them.
The attitude we have while serving is important because it is not just an individual or group we are serving but first we are serving God. Paul tells us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 2:23-24).
The other day while reading the devotional Reflecting the Glory by N.T. Wright, another concept in serving others jumped out at me from what he said concerning John 15:12-17.
John 15:13 reads, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
It is not uncommon to here this verse referenced at the memorial service for a member of the military who died protecting his fellow soldiers or who gave his life in service to his country. This strongly touches my heart because one of my grandfathers was killed in action over France in World War II. You may have also heard this verse referenced in discussions of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us when He died on the cross for all of humanity.
Take a look at the author’s take on this verse:
“Jesus is talking about the self-giving of an entire life, minute by minute, day by day, year by year. It is easy for us to be cynical about genuine love, to imagine that people are acting merely from a desire for status, for good reputation. What Jesus is describing goes deeper than any self-seeking, deeper than any self-serving. It simply wants to do the utmost possible for the beloved, up to and including the point of giving its own life.”
Although this verse is talking about making the ultimate sacrifice for another, it also points us to another level of service. I think this gives a new and higher meaning to putting others before yourself.
As we continue in our journey in this life we never know if and when we may be called to make the ultimate sacrifice for another but until that time may come we can definitely serve others on a higher level.