Let me ask an honest question… a question I ask myself more routinely than I care to admit:
Do you serve others because you feel you’re “supposed to,” or do you serve others because you want to serve?
The motive provided in Scripture is pretty clear:
“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.” (Gal 5:13 NLT)
Does it really make any difference whether we want to or have to serve, as long as it gets done?
I would suggest that it makes an enormous difference, not only to those being served, but to the servers themselves.
I struggle on and off with this. I sometimes serve out of a sense of obligation or duty. And whenever I do, it feels… tedious. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels that way.
And I’m guessing I’m not the only one who notices either. Other people I serve with may feel that same sense of heaviness… that same lack of passion. Service becomes something we have to “get through.”
When I get to that point, I’ve learned to stop and ask myself, “Why am I really doing this today?” When I take a second to reflect, a shift occurs. The heaviness lifts… my focus shifts from “project” to “people”… people who are not really that different from me.
My energy is renewed… my heart becomes focused (instead of my head)… and the same service becomes transformed by remembering Paul’s last two words: “…in love.” I feel more like a disciple, and less like cog in the wheel of a cosmic machine.
Author Greg Ogden puts it this way (I’m paraphrasing): No one becomes a true disciple of Jesus Christ because they’re supposed to… they become a true disciple of Christ because they want to!
The very foundation of discipleship is rooted in love: Christ’s love for us, and His love shed abroad in our hearts to others. It follows then, that our motivation to serve other should be rooted in love also.
Love doesn’t have to serve. Love wants to serve.
When we shift our mentality, our approach will change also.
“Have to serve” approaches are efficient and convenient... for the one serving. Servers can be in and out with an efficiency that would be the envy of any special operations team. Serving? Done!
But have you ever wondered what it feels like from the other end… to be served with efficiency and convenience?
Denver Moore can tell you. Denver co-authored a book with Ron Hall (Same Kind of Different as Me) that describes exactly how it feels. And just how would Denver know?
Because for most of his adult life, Denver was a homeless man… the recipient of service that was efficient and convenient… for someone else.
Denver describes that kind of service as “Catch and release” service. Those who served Denver weren’t really interested in anything but checking off a task, or making themselves feel better. Denver likened it to fishing, where the fish are caught and released.
Only in Denver’s case, the release was back into the uncaring streets.
That kind of fishing isn’t designed to feed anyone… it’s just an entertaining hobby. Sort of like serving because you’re supposed to serve.
But what happens when that motivation turns to “want to serve?” Read the book and you’ll find out how powerful that can be for both the served and the servers. (I don’t want to spoil it for you!).
In the end, serving “because we want to” will take a heart change. It’s not just about rearranging schedules, or merely setting aside resources for others. We can do all that without ever coming from the heart.
Heart change is a work of the Holy Spirit in cooperation with us. We’ll have to agree… and cooperate with The Spirit. We’ll have to listen… and follow the Spirit’s lead. We’ll hear God’s voice in the stillness of prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading. We’ll feel The Spirit’s pull as we get up and get moving.
And it will mess us up. Our lives won’t be “normal” any more.
On the other hand, there’s a whole world of people out there who will experience their own transformation. They’ll go from the insecurity of “catch and release,” to the eternal security of being held in God’s everlasting arms. They will be lifted up into the very presence of God through the hands of God’s servants.
Which means… the servants will also be lifted up into the very presence of God.
That world will want for nothing.
And that world is worth wanting… wanting to serve others, in love.
Where might you serve as God’s hands and feet? What would you have to do in order to make the transition from “have to serve” over to “want to serve?”