“You are trying to choke me!”
“No, I’m not!”
“You barely gave me any milk. Yes, you are!”
This was a conversation I had yesterday as I stood in the food line serving breakfast to guests of Cherry Street Mission Ministries. My job was to pour the cereal and milk, a job in which I struggled with ratio between milk to cereal. Apparently, my milk pouring skills left a lot to be desired.
Cherry Street is located in downtown Toledo and would perhaps be what people describe as a homeless shelter, but really it’s much more than that. They serve food, they offer shelter, they provide job training in a variety of fields, and they offer people Jesus.
We were at Cherry Street yesterday because one of the things we were very insistent about when we started EDC was that we as a church would serve people. We desired for service to be a large part of our DNA. Our groups, which meet weekly, are asked to live out being the church by once a month serving somewhere or somebody.
I’m going to shoot straight with you here. This is the thing about serving other people:
It’s not natural.
It requires that we stop looking at ourselves and instead lift up our eyes and look around us at other people.
When we serve somebody else we are stepping into their world and offering ourselves to their mercy.
We give up position, authority, power, comfort, money, and time.
Service is looking at others and essentially saying,
“You are greater than me.”
I was so struck yesterday as I surveyed all the people in the cafeteria. Each of those people have a story. They each were created in the image of God. Thus, they each have inherent value. They each have known great loss and most likely great joy. They each have friends and family. They each were at one point a little baby who somebody loved. (Seriously, think about that the next time you see a homeless person.) I have no idea what happened that required those people to now to be shuffling through a line, in which I poured their cereal, but I do know that even still God values and loves those people.
At EDC we don’t serve because we want to feel good about ourselves. We don’t serve to be on par with the hip and trendy “save the world” mentality that many embrace today. We serve simply because this is the example that Jesus modeled. Our world is quick to make distinctions among ourselves in which we separate one another into classes and groups and the goods and the bads, but Jesus doesn’t. When God looks down at earth he sees one thing: his creation…his good good creation.
I LOVE the book of Philippians (a letter written by a man named Paul) and especially what he wrote in the second chapter because I feel like it explains perfectly the example Jesus modeled.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
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,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Why did Jesus do this? He did it because he loved people. He valued his creation.
Sometimes I think we have this idea that God is looming above us, looking down and ready to squash us like bugs if we take a misstep. These verses show us something different. Instead of a God who hovers over us from above like the worst kind of helicopter mom, we have a God who comes along side of us, who walks with us, who knows what it is like to be us and who gave up his life for us.
What does it even mean that Jesus gave up his life for us? It means that he bridged the gap between humans and God. It means that he made himself available for us for all time. It means that if we surrender our lives to God, Jesus takes over our hearts and minds. He restores brokenness and exchanges it for hope and restoration.
I digress. Back to service.
I LOVE these verses because they illustrate how awesome God is. That God, with every privilege, would give up everything to meet humanity at its level and say, “You are greater than me.” Which is absurd because how backwards is that?!
It is SO backwards.
But there is a thing here. Paul didn’t write these words just to make us feel good, although I do think we should feel really good after reading them. Paul had a different reason for writing. Right before Paul says these words about Jesus, as an introduction to all the wonderfulness he is about to share, he states, “You must have the same attitude that Jesus had.”
“You must have the same attitude that Jesus had.”
He is not just writing about who Jesus is, but he is writing about who we should be.
If we call ourselves Jesus followers, which I do, then we have to insert ourselves into what Paul says next. I have to insert myself into what Paul says next.
Though I am Randi and have lots of things at my disposal, I cannot see these as things to cling to. I have to give up the privileges I have and humble myself as a servant. To live in obedience to God is to lay down my life, no matter how unfair it seems, for the sake of others.
That changes things!
If my attitude is going to be like that of Jesus, if I am going to take seriously what Jesus did then I must embrace service as a part of who I am. EDC must embrace service as a part of who our church is. Instead of walking on this earth as a looming figure, using my position and power to look down on others, I must instead lay down whatever privileges I have and come alongside others wherever they are in life.
What are the things you have at your disposal today?
How could you give up something to better somebody else?
What would it look like if you embraced the attitude of “you are greater than me”?
We serve because Jesus served. Jesus served because he loved greatly.
Lord, may you fill our hearts with your spirit today and give us the capacity to love more greatly those around us. May we see people as your creation, for whom you gave up every privilege.