We talked last week about how Jesus ate meals with tax collectors and other disreputable sinners – the lowest of the low – because by simply eating with those people, He was letting them know that they were important to him. The fact of the matter is – God loves sinners. Which is good – because all of us are sinners. If you ate with anyone last week, you ate with a disreputable sinner. Even if you ate alone, you ate with a disreputable sinner.
But that’s ok – because God loves, forgives, and accepts sinners.
And we were talking about eating last week, because we’ve been going through the acronym BLESS. This acronym has been teaching us how we can use our blessings so that we can be a blessing to the people around us.
We started with the B – Begin with prayer. It’s a simple prayer: “Here I am. Send me. Allow me to use my blessings to meet someone else’s need today.”
Then the L stood for Listen. If we want to bless the people around us, we have to actually listen to them – learning what their needs truly are – and we need to listen to the Holy Spirit as He prompts and nudges on our divine appointments.
The E, of course stood for eat. Eating with people is a universal way of letting them know that they are important to us and that we want them to be a part of our lives. This is also a great opportunity for us to practice listening to them – getting to know them and discovering their needs.
And now today, we get to our first S. And this S might not be quite as enjoyable as the E, not as simple as the L, nor as easy as the B. However, this S together with the next S could very well be the most powerful tools we have in bringing people to receive the greatest blessing – that is, their own personal relationship with God.
The first S in our BLESS acronym stands for serve. Now this one out of all our five lessons seems to be the most logical. It just makes sense that if we want to be a blessing to the people in our community, then we ought to serve them.
Think about your own life – how many times have you been totally blessed because someone else served you in some way? Maybe your neighbor mowed your lawn or shoveled your side walk while He was out doing his own. Maybe someone brought a casserole over to your house when you had a family member in the hospital. Maybe your buddies came over to help you build your deck or move some furniture. Maybe someone offered to watch your kids while you and your spouse went on a date night.
When we have people serve us in some of these ways, we just think “Man, you guys are awesome! You are such a blessing to me!”
That’s one of the fantastic things about being part of the church – you have this whole group of people who are willing to step up and help out whenever someone has a need. I know that I’ve been blessed on my many occasions – and likely, so have you.
But what about the people aren’t part of the church – do we serve them too? What about the people that no one really likes? The difficult people? What about the grumpy complainers? What about the people who want nothing to do with the church – nothing to do with you? Do we still serve those people?
You see, it’s pretty easy to serve one other another. It’s not all that hard to do something kind for your friends – cuz chances are, they’ll be all thankful and say nice things about you and probably somewhere in the future, they’ll do something nice back to you.
But it’s a little tougher to serve the people who never say thank you – who don’t say nice things about you – who, more than likely, will never do anything nice for to you. But do we serve them anyway?
If you have your Bibles with you, turn to Luke chapter 6 – starting at verse 27. Listen to what Jesus has to say about all this.
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
Yikes. Well, that kinda humbles us a little bit, doesn’t it? If that’s what it means to serve, maybe we’re not as good at serving others as we thought. Perhaps we need to take a lesson from Jesus… Flip back in your Bible to Mark 10 – starting at verse 42. Jesus is having a discussion with his disciples about leadership and authority.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Now I hope you grasp how backwards this sounds. Remember, this is Jesus speaking. He is the Creator of the universe – the Creator of every living being. Revelation 5:12 tells us that He is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. He is God. And He came to this planet He created to serve the people He created? To serve the sinful human beings who have rebelled against Him from the day they were born? Doesn’t that seem to be a little backwards to you? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
But that’s what Jesus said – and that’s what Jesus did. He didn’t come to be served, He came to be the servant of everyone. We can see that through his entire ministry. And He tells his disciples – He tells us – to follow his example. He tells us to be the slave of everyone else. That doesn’t sound like exchanging favors with your buddies. That sounds more like doing something and getting nothing in return. That sounds like doing things for others that you really don’t want to do. Being a slave to the people around us doesn’t sound all that appealing!
I realize that we are a little bit removed from slavery and we don’t fully grasp that what means, but I think we’ve read enough in school and seen enough in movies that we have a basic understanding of what it means to be a slave.
So let me ask you this: Are you a slave to your community? We don’t like the sound of that, do we? This is Canada – no one should be a slave to anyone! Or should we?
When Paul begins writing the book of Romans, he writes…
This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus… Romans 1:1
Beginning the book of Philippians he writes….
This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus… Philippians 1:1
James writes in his book…
This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. James 1:1
Peters writes in his book…
This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:1
This isn’t to say that God had forced each one of these men to do his bidding, but rather, each of these men, because of the great love God had shown them, had willing surrendered their entire lives to the service of their God. Just like Jesus Christ willingly choose to come to earth to serve mankind, likewise, these apostles willingly chose to give up their life to serve their God.
So I ask you again: Are you a slave to your community? Have you willingly surrendered your life to serve the people around you for Jesus Christ? Because if you’re a slave of Jesus Christ, He’s asking you to follow his example and to love your enemies, to do good to those who hate you, to serve the people who will never say thank you.
Jesus did all those things. In fact, let me show you some examples. If you like taking notes, you can label this section “The four slave-like attitudes of Jesus”.
1. Jesus served without pay/reward/or even thanks.
Look at Luke chapter 17 – verse 11…
As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.12 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!”16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
As I read this story, I wonder how many other times this happened? How many times did Jesus do something totally amazing for someone and they were so excited they just ran off and never even said thank you? I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened a lot.
In this case, Jesus got one thank you out of ten miracles. That’s not a great average.
Let me ask you this: If you shoveled your neighbors sidewalk ten times one winter, and he never shoveled yours, in fact, he only ever said thanks once – would you be inclined to keep shoveling his sidewalk? Apparently Jesus would. Jesus willingly served without pay, without reward, and even without thanks. Do you serve with that same attitude?
2. Jesus did the things that no one else wanted to do.
Look at John 13 – starting at verse 2;
It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am.14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.
John 13:2-5, 12-15
Just to give you a little background info here, washing people’s feet is not a fun task – especially in Jesus time. People would be walking around all day in the dirt – their feet would be hot and sweaty. So quite often, when you went somewhere to be a guest for dinner, there would be a household servant who would wash your feet for you – after all, you’re going to be reclining around the table – you don’t want to have someone’s smelly, dirty feet in your face. But washing the feet of your guests was the job of the servant – the slave. Jesus should have been the last one to get down and wash his disciples feet.
And what’s even more amazing, I think, is that Jesus also washed Judas’ feet. Jesus knew that Judas would soon betray him, and yet Jesus still got down and scrubbed the grim and filth off Judas feet.
Could you do that? Think of the person who has hurt you most in this world – could you wash their feet? Jesus did. And he’s commanded us to follow his example. You might not need to actually wash someone feet, but there is always a need to serve the people around us by doing the things that no one else wants to do.
I remember not too long around, Arlen got called over to someone house because their toilet was plugged up and they couldn’t get it clear. So Arlen brought over his plumbing snake and got it all cleaned out. He probably wasn’t very excited about doing it, but Arlen did the job that no one else wanted to do. And because he was a willing to be a slave to his community, He was able to be a great blessing to that family. That’s exactly the kind of stuff that Jesus would do. Jesus did the things that no one else wanted to do.
3. Jesus served when it was inconvenient.
In Matthew 14 we read about the death of John the Baptist. He had been thrown in prison by Herod and at the request of Heriodias’ daughter, he was beheaded. But now look at what Jesus does. We pick up the story at verse 12 of Matthew 14.
John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
It seems to me that Jesus didn’t really want to spend his day dealing with the crowds. His good friend, John the baptist had just died. Jesus and John were actually cousins so they would have grown up together. So when Jesus hears that John had been beheaded – you can understand why Jesus left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.
But alas, the crowds heard where he was going, and they were there waiting for him. If I were in Jesus’ place, I think I would have probably told them all to go home. “Look, today’s not a good day. Can you come back tomorrow? A good friend of mine just died and I just want to be alone for a while.”
But Jesus didn’t do that. Even when it was inconvenient and He didn’t feel like it – Jesus served others anyway. He had compassion on them and healed their sick.
You might not have people calling on you to heal the sick, but other opportunities to serve might come at the most inconvenient times.
If you are going to be a slave of Jesus Christ and serve your community, I think you’ll find that most often, it’s not going to be convenient. You might have to interrupt your schedule. You might have to go out of your way. But if you want to bless your community, you have to meet people’s needs as they come when they come. If you wait until its more convenient, you’re going to miss many opportunities to be a blessing. Jesus served even when it was inconvenient.
4. Jesus served even when it cost Him.
Take a look at Philippians 2:5-8. This is another familiar passage.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Now that’s the ultimate in self-less serving! Jesus gave up his very life to serve us. When every person on earth was in desperate need of salvation, Jesus met that need, even though it was at great expense to Himself. That’s how far Jesus was willing to go to serve us. He was willing to go to the cross.
How far are you willing to go to serve the people around you? What price are you willing to pay? It’s quite possible that God will bring to your attention someone’s deep need that you can meet – but not without a great expense to yourself.
Perhaps it will cost you time. There are many people in this world who’s deepest needs are healthy relationships – and building relationships take a lot time. If you’re going to meet their need, you might have to sacrifice some of your time.
Perhaps it will cost money. Perhaps the need that God points out to you is a physical need that you can provide for someone – but it’ll cost you a good chunk of cash. If you meet that need, you might make things a little tight on the budget for yourself.
Perhaps it will cost you personal comfort or health. In the early days of Christianity, when plagues would run through entire cites, everyone would avoid and keep their distance from anyone who was sick or diseased – for fear of becoming diseased themselves. Everyone that is – except the Christians. At great risk to their own health, they would care for the sick. The would feed them and comfort them. They were willing to serve no matter what the cost.
Do you have that kind of resolve? Or perhaps, more to the point, do you have that kind of love for the people around you?
Because that’s really the issue here. We serve because we love. That’s why moms and dads change poopy diapers and wake up multiple times in the middle of the night – not because the pay is great, not because it’s convenient – but because they love that child.
We serve because we love.
When Jesus tells us to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who hurt us – we can’t do that unless we love them.
Love has to be the underlying motivation. And we can certainly see that in the life of Jesus Christ. The reason He could serve so self-lessly, was because He loved unconditionally.
The reason He healed all ten lepers was because he loved each one unconditionally.
The reason He washed the feet of all twelve disciples (even Judas) was because he loved each one unconditionally.
The reason He had compassion on the crowds and healed the sick even when he didn’t feel like it, was because He loved each one unconditionally.
And the reason He allowed Himself to be nailed on a cross for you and for me, was because He loved us unconditionally.
So the way I see it, we can only respond in one of two ways.
Option #1. We can choose to ignore God’s love. We can choose not to believe it – not to accept it for ourselves. And of course, if we don’t accept God’s love for ourselves, we have no obligation to pass along that love to anyone else. We don’t have to serve anybody – except ourselves! So that’s one option.
Option #2. Is that we can gratefully, and humbly accept God’s love. We can believe that Jesus really did die on that cross in our place because He loved us. We can accept that love – Which of course, comes with forgiveness, joy, peace, and eternal life and all that other good stuff. But also with that, comes the responsibility to pass along that unconditional love. To serve the people around you no matter what the cost.
If God loved you when you were still a sinner, and He gave up his life for you, then what are you going to do to follow His example?
Will you love your enemies? Will you do good to those who hate you? Will you serve the people around you unconditionally? Will you be a blessing to your community?
I hope that you will. I hope that we all will!