Learning to Serve One Another

We’ve spent a little time recently at North Coast in our Life-or-Death weekend series from the book of John, talking about Jesus’ last days with His disciples and His instruction to them.

Within His teaching, as an example of humble servitude, Jesus washed each of their feet – including those of one who would betray him (Judas) and another who would deny him (Peter).

With the exception of John, as far as we’re told, each of the others whose feet He washed, would, for a time, disassociate from Him – in His darkest hour – a most pain-ridden time in His seemingly all-too-short life. More on that in a minute.

But in chapter 13, John records Jesus’ instruction to His disciples this way:

15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  16Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  (John 13: 15-17 NIV)

Then again, in Chapter 15, beginning in verse 12 Jesus tells his disciples, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.” 

On the cross, Jesus served each of us by taking the punishment upon himself that we rightly and justly deserve for our sin.

And while Jesus may not literally be asking us to die for one another, I believe He is asking that we die to ourselves – that we put aside our own selfish desires as various writers have suggested – and look for ways to out-serve one another.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2: 3—4).

“But what if I don’t feel love (or really, just don’t even like someone)?” you may ask.

My study Bible answers this question in this way: “There will always be individuals who try our patience and stretch our capacity to love.  It’s helpful to realize that it is God (through the work of His Holy Spirit) who enables us to love others. (1 John 4:19) Jesus does not command us to feel a certain way; he commands us to show love to one another through our actions.”

As we enter into our Life Groups in the coming weeks, what are some ways in which we might listen and be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s guidance?

How can we practice Jesus’ example of humble servitude with one another – even when it really seems difficult?

In the research that I did, I’ve come across a few good places for us to start:

First, place the needs of others before your own in your day-to-day thoughts and activities.

  1. As has often been taught here at North Coast, you’re never closer to Jesus than when you’re serving others.
  2. And you’re never further from Jesus than when you’re only seeking to be served.
  3. As you enter a room, instead of maintaining the attitude of being served or entertained, seek God’s guidance on what it is He is looking to teach you and where it is that your gifts and talents might be used to bless others.
  4. A good question to start with, in placing others’ needs before your own and serving them is, “how can I help.”
  5. Train your mind to begin looking for ways God may be calling you to use your gifts and talents in service to others.
  6. Start with the little things – maybe allowing someone in line ahead of you, holding your tongue from releasing that thought, anticipating a need, or doing something nice for someone else without expectation of their recognition or returning the favor.

2. Focus/Pay a bit Closer Attention

  1. Actively listen to what others in your group are saying – both with their actual words and through their body language.
  2. Some have gone so far, as to point out that God’s original creation for each of us was 2 ears, 2 hands, 2 feet but just one mouth.
  3. How might we learn to use what God’s given us better in actively listening, acting and assisting through our service to others before speaking?
  4. Before judging another’s actions or jumping to any conclusions, be willing to wonder why they feel, act or express themselves the way that they do.
  5. What part of their story don’t you yet know?
  6. If your heart is still struggling to love, much less serve that certain someone in your group, ask Jesus, through His Holy Spirit within you, for a change of heart.
  7. Be open to Him working, stretching, and changing your mind and attitude. This may bring out some things you need to address and work on, but it will be worth it!
  8. He can change your heart, soften the edges, and teach you to love others with more kindness, empathy and compassion than you’ve previously thought possible.

3. Make The Time / Take the Time it Takes

  1. Allow some margin in your day and set aside time to be able to serve others.
  2. Take a look at your schedule. Are you doing too much?
  3. Are some of the things on your list just there to keep up appearances?
  4. Ask God for His wisdom and guidance in what truly needs to be done and what can be set aside in order for you to have time to love and serve others.

4. Listen to God and Do What He Says

  1. Follow God’s prompting and leading through His Holy Spirit when going about your day.
  2. If you sense that you should stop and serve, more often than not, follow that instinct.
  3. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should take on every opportunity presented to you.
  4. Pray about it. And then, pray some more.
  5. Ask God, then listen and do what He says.

It is impossible to serve God or in fact even to truly love God without serving one another.

The apostle Paul taught that we have freedom in Christ, but not a license to sin or to serve our own selfish desires.

In his letter to the Church in Galatia he puts it this way, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”  (Galatians 5:13 NIV)

Jesus lived and died as the supreme example of humble, self-sacrificing love and service.

Christian freedom involves dying to oneself and becoming a slave in service to others.

In verse 14 of the same chapter referenced above, Paul goes on to write, “For the entire law is summed up in keeping this one command, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

It is one of the extraordinary kingdom paradoxes.

The opposite of self-serving love is love that serves others.

The kind of love Jesus commands and calls us to.

He modeled and set the example, and then calls us to imitate it if we are truly going to be His followers.

We can learn to love in this way…to serve in this way.

It will take practice.

God will provide the platform, the time and the ability through His Holy Spirit within you if you ask Him.

But when you ask, be prepared to love in ways that will stretch and grow your obedience and faithfulness.  Be prepared to engage in behavior different than your spirit may naturally lead.  Be prepared, ready and willing to do hard things.

Hard things are often the most worthwhile things for in them, we continue to learn and grow.

May this be a new season of great learning and growth for all of us.

Right here with you,