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Thoughts on serving others


Last updated 5/4/2011 at Noon

A few days ago, many Christians gathered together during Holy Week to commemorate Jesus’ last supper with his disciples.

They also remembered what happened during the meal – how Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist and proceeded to wash the disciple’s feet, leaving an example of humble service and a command to love one another.

Service to others is, of course, central to Christian faith, and such service takes many forms. There are three types of service, however, that we would do well to keep in mind:

• There is service rendered in small things – the ministry of the mundane.

So often we think that when God calls us to serve others, we have to engage in some great act of self-sacrifice, perhaps leaving all to travel to some mission field where we can feed the hungry and care for the sick.

Sometimes God does indeed call people to do extraordinary things – Mother Theresa immediately comes to mind. But service that also counts with God is that which is rendered in small, ordinary ways – as small as offering a smile, a kind word, an encouraging note, a friendly phone call, extending common courtesy, being helpful – these, too, are noble ways to serve.

These things count for the kingdom more than we know. It is the simple “cup of cold water” given in Jesus’ name. Someone has said, “Greatness in life consists not so much in doing so-called great things, but in doing small things greatly.”

• There is also the service of being personally available – the ministry of “interruptibility.”

Someone made the astute comment: “You know, my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.”

Opportunities to serve usually come to us at first as something of an “interruption” from our normal routine.

We usually begin each day with a particular personal agenda in mind. But then someone needs our help, someone needs to talk to us – and it doesn’t always come at a convenient time.

We can either resent the intrusion or we can view it as a golden moment to make a difference in someone’s life, even if it is only a small difference.

What if the interruptions are our ministry? What if they really are God-appointed opportunities for us to be used by God?

• And there is the service offered in secrecy – the ministry of hiddenness.

The temptation for us overly proud people is to show off a little when we serve. We would love for others to know what great servants we are.

Deliberately keeping our service to others secret, giving anonymously, serving without acclaim or applause is a needful spiritual discipline. It takes our ego out of it; it focuses entirely on the person or cause served.

These words from an anonymous source have always troubled me: “You know, Lord, how I serve you with great emotional fervor in the limelight. You know how eagerly I speak for you at a women’s club. You know how I effervesce when I promote a fellowship group. You know my genuine enthusiasm at a Bible study.

“But how would I react, I wonder, if you pointed to a basin of water and asked me to wash the calloused feet of a bent and wrinkled old woman day after day, month after month, in a room where nobody saw and nobody knew.”

Loving service rendered in small things, making ourselves personally available, helping in secret – they are all types of service that matter more than we know.

In all things we follow the example of Jesus, who said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”


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