Wednesday, May 9, 2018

It Is Hard To Serve God, Because It Is Hard To Serve People

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their tribulations. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit. One who is righteous has many adversities, but the Lord rescues him from them all.
Psalm 34:17-19

       We who serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are guided by the Bible. It is a description of perfection. We follow Jesus, the perfect One, and his teachings with a desire to become more and more like him. So, perfection is ever before our eyes, except, it seems, when we look at the world around us and those we serve.  
       It's impossible to serve God and not serve people. It doesn't matter if you're the preacher, the teacher, the greeter, or the bottle-washer. All of us, not just the pastors, elders & deacons, serve one another. As a matter of fact, if you follow Jesus you must serve his people. And, serving people is hard. It's hard because people are imperfect.  
       Sometimes we don't even think about their imperfections, because their character defects seem minor. Sometimes, however, their imperfections are far from minor. Either way, it doesn't matter. We live in a world with people who are not yet perfected. And, we follow a Savior whose love compels us to serve them. Their imperfections aren't just a reality. They're actually the focus of our service. We serve to build up the body of Christ, "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ's fullness." (Eph.4:13) Pay special attention to the word, "until."
       Their imperfection, coupled with Christ's love within us for them, results in suffering. Service produces some measure of suffering. Sometimes, though, our suffering is caused by our own expectations. Since we are striving for the measure of Christ, we expect that of others. When they are not able to produce, and their failure adversely affects us, we suffer. It's not wrong to be disappointed, but the depth of that disappointment is often the result of faulty expectations. If our expectations for perfection lead us to stop serving, then our expectations need urgent adjustment. Remember, no one we serve is perfect. If you have been disappointed, or perhaps even crushed in the service of Christ, I want to suggest three helps.
       First, keep your eyes on Jesus. He's the only one who is perfect, the only one who will never fail, and the only one who will never disappoint. By the way, if he has disappointed you, then you have wrongly judged him. Even then he will save your crushed spirit and rescue you from your many adversities.
       Second, with Jesus ever before your eyes, take a good look in the mirror. When you do, you'll be quickly reminded that you also are not perfect. The troubles you have when you serve the imperfect are part of God's plan to perfect you. When you serve others, and their imperfection makes that difficult, give God thanks for the trial that is perfecting your faith. Every trial is an opportunity for your growth.
       Third, serve them anyway. If you don't serve, you don't follow Jesus. If you follow Jesus, you will serve. It's better to follow Jesus. I think Teresa of Calcutta put it well when she wrote,

People are often unreasonable,
irrational and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you 
of selfish,  ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful,
you will win some unfaithful friends
and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere,
people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating,
others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness,
some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you to today,
will often be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have,
and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

(Photo is the painting Lavement des pieds de Saint Pierre par Jesus, public domain.)