Sunday, July 10, 2016

The "Each Other" Teachings of Jesus - Part 7. Serve Each Other

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.   Galatians 5:13(NLT)
In the Bible there are 66 divisions called books.  Within those books are 1200 chapters, with more than 1450 references to the word servant or serve.  Something that is mentioned that often demands our attention.
There are three words that are used to describe serving in the New Testament.  They describe a progression of relationship to Jesus. 

Minister latreuo

This word is the weakest relationship; it speaks of legalities, as one who is hired to perform a service.  Many people see their relationship to God as dutiful, paying an obligation, our legal responsibility to worship God. 
This is weak in thinking and theology.  If God wanted people who were going to pay Him back he surely would look elsewhere.  How can you repay the cross?

Friendly Host diakonos

This is the next strongest relationship – the friendly host to Jesus.  We get our word deacon from this word.  It describes the one who follows after Jesus to be a heartfelt lover of the Lord. 
There are people who love the idea of doing something for Jesus.  They go to church, give, even serve on committees and boards.  It is a nice picture of nice people doing nice things in a nice way.  As long as everything stays nice, everything will be nice.  However, we know that this is not a nice world.  It is a world gripped and ripped by sin.  Not everything in the church will be nice and ideal.

Slave doulos

Slave is the strongest word for relationship to Jesus.  It literally means bondslave, the person who has no choice with his own life; he is committed for life to serve his master.  Paul, James, Peter, and John all referred to themselves as the slaves of Christ.  This is the strongest word of relationship because it requires the most bridges burned.  It requires commitment to give yourself to someone
The minister (latreuo) is a hired servant, so he is there for what he will receive in payment.  The friendly host (diakonos) is serving because of favored conditions.  The slave (doulos) is there to lose himself in life-long loving disposal to the Master's wishes. 
Do you see the progression?  It goes from receiving wages (weakest relationship) to giving self (strongest relationship).
Now, the essence of our text can be explained in the light of those three words.  When Paul said, ... serve one another in love, he used the word doulos. 
The relationship is based on giving ourselves to one another – in slavehood.  He did not use latreuo, saying we have an obligation to serve like a hired waiter.  He did not say diakonos, indicating hanging-out with the brethren until the going got rough.  He said, doulos; we are to be slaves, devoted to each other, even as we claim to be devoted to Christ. 
Notice three implications about this:
1.  Those who consider themselves slaves to everyone in the body are considered greatest in the body by the head of the body.
and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.  Mark 10:44(NLT)
A bunch of new recruits in the army were taking a written exam.  The sergeant noticed one of the new men who was not writing.  When he asked why, the recruit said, Sir, I don't have any paper or a pencil.  The sergeant bellowed, Well, MISTER, what would you think of a soldier who went into battle without a rifle or ammunition?  The recruit thought for a moment and answered, I guess he'd be an officer!   Some folks imagine that servant hood is something for others. 
2.  Those who have compassion to meet the needs of people rather than judge people are true servants
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.  The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”  Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”  Luke 10:36-37(NLT)
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the true servant of God's will was the man who put aside racial, economic and religious barriers to meet someone's dire need. 
Our Granddaughter, Chelsea is a doula, who gives herself in non-judgmental support of a woman going through pregnancy and delivery.  You put your feelings, opinions and bias on hold and serve!
There are many people in our community who need the ministry of this body.  There was a little boy in the ghetto who was having his faith in God mocked.  His companion said, If God really loves you, why doesn't he take care of you?  Why doesn't God tell someone to bring you shoes and a warm coat, and better food?  The lad thought for a moment and then, with tears starting in his eyes, said, I guess God does tell somebody, but somebody forgets.
3.  Those who have consecrated themselves to serve the body will really be serving the Master
 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  Matthew 25.40(NLT)
When we help a needy person, when we offer food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty we are actually helping Jesus.  When we care for the forgotten of our society, as Jesus did, we are actually loving Jesus.
In the 1999 movie Walking Across Egypt[ii] Ellen Burstyn is Mattie Rigsbee, an elderly widow whose children want her to move to an assisted living facility.  In the struggle of wills Mattie meets Wesley Benfield who has recently escaped from the county juvenile detention center.  Mattie has been struggling with the words of Jesus to do good to those who are the least of these, and Wesley fits the bill – and thensome… being one of the most troublesome! 
In the process of reaching out to Wesley, everyone around Mattie is changed.  And while she had been a serious Christian and kind-hearted person previously, Mattie begins to experience firsthand the joy of serving others with sacrificial spirit, going the extra mile.  In short, she begins to understand what it is like to serve Jesus by serving Wesley, an obnoxious, profane, reckless and angry teenager.
And that’s what Jesus wants for us…be last, let your actions speak, serve others.
Serve one another?
We can take that to heart in varied ways.  We can serve each other like Salome' did for the John the Baptist, serving his head on a platter.  That's the world's way. 
We can latreuo one another like hired servants, just doing what we do because it is our duty to do things around the church.
We can diakonos one another like fair weather friends, being nice among the nice as long as everything's nice.
                                                            -- or --
We can be Biblical slaves, doulos, committed to each other and this community, filled with mercy, meeting needs, doing it with love towards the Wesley Benfield’s, the least and lost, as unto the Lord.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!


[i] Nicholas Mutton, via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Walking Across Egypt, information and pictures from Wikipedia

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