January 2, 2021

Serve to Change Yourself

By Mallory Gabriel

Why should we serve? It’s a good question! Serving is part of our Christian ethic and something we are asked to do both in church and in our daily lives. Does it really matter though? Should it be a priority? I think the answer may be pleasantly surprising.

In Mark 10:45, when speaking to His disciples about serving one another, Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom, for many.” I don’t think we serve because it is the good, noble, or moral thing to do. Or because our own pain and suffering is “less” than the suffering of those around us. Or because it makes us look good in front of others (which, if we’re honest, is a common temptation). I would go so far as to say, our ultimate purpose for serving isn’t even to please God by offering Him a sacrifice of service.

As a counselor, I find that I am occasionally asked how and why I do what I do.  The implication seems to be that listening to other people’s “problems” day after day is burdensome. For me, the question is understandable, but not difficult to answer. I truly feel blessed to listen to real, human stories. It is an honor to enter the depths of a person’s story. In them, I find no shortage of the courageous pursuit of love, beautiful reflections of the Creator, and deeply personal experiences of pain. In them, I experience honesty, vulnerability, and genuine human-to-human connection.

Over time, I began to realize something that was amazing and truly unexpected. I was being transformed by listening to the stories of others. Similarly, as I served as an usher in the church, I was being transformed by the relationships of the men and women with whom I serve.

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and those who know and receive Him in his death and resurrection, are made new.  That is why we serve. Christian service is rooted in the gospel.

After Jesus spoke the words that we read in Mark 10:45, He came across a blind man who cried out to Him for healing, and because of his faith and Jesus’s love for him, his sight was restored. I was the blind man. And if by faith you have been healed by the love and sacrifice of Jesus, so were you. As we serve others, we extend to them the same love and compassion Christ has extended to us. Serving is transformational! As we serve others, Jesus works in us through the stories and connections we experience and transforms our hearts to be more like His.

Serving can be intimidating and even scary for us at times, I totally get that! In high school I remember asking a mentor for direction on ways in which I could deepen my faith. He suggested I go and volunteer at a local nursing home. The thought made me uncomfortable. When I mentioned that, he gently responded, “God forbid you do something that makes you feel uncomfortable.” Eventually I ended up going, and I can still recall some of the stories I heard there! It was a rich experience for me, and I think they may have enjoyed the company, despite my awkwardness.

Serving does not need to be a huge endeavor, involving high degrees of personal sacrifice. Although, at times God may call us to that, and there typically is personal sacrifice involved. As we look for ways to serve, look for something you would enjoy, or feel may align with your gifts.

Earlier in Mark 10, Jesus rebukes his disciples for hindering a group of children from coming to Him. He then called the kids, embraced them, and taught that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (Mark 10:15). Serving children not only serves the weakest among us, but also teaches us how we are to receive God’s Kingdom with childlike faith.

There are many ways we can serve in the church including greeting others as they come in, serving in the parking lot, praying for others, serving in the women’s ministry, being an usher, preparing care packages for students who are away for college, and working behind the scenes in a variety of ways to prepare the sanctuary for worship and preaching.

Serving is rooted in the Gospel.  Because Christ has served us in His life, death, and resurrection, we serve others.  As we serve others, we are changed to look more like Him!

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