God Doesn’t Need Us
After recently returning from Gatlinburg, NC and seeing the destruction left behind the wake of the historic fire, I’ve been thinking a lot about what servanthood means. If our goal is to emulate the life of Jesus while we’re on earth, then shouldn’t we all strive to make ourselves servants just like he did? If the Lion of Judah and the King of Creation and the head of the church made himself so low as to die for all of HIS creation, then shouldn’t we work to do the same in our own lives as much as we can? There are two ideas I’d like to address in this blog-post. 1) We physically CAN’T serve God. & 2) As a culture we do a terrible job of caring for and serving the weak and the poor.
We Can’t Serve God
First, the Bible has a good bit to say about the sovereignty of God. The coolest passage I’ve seen on the topic has to be the occasion where Paul is speaking to an assembly of Greeks in Athens about God. Paul states to them that “…in every way you are very religious”, noting the large amount of idols and false Gods present in the city. In Paul’s attempt to tell the Greeks about the one, true God, he speaks several profound sentences that express God’s ultimate sovereignty and complete satisfaction in everything. He says:
22 “So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” – Acts 17: 22-27
This is so incredible to me! Paul is essentially flipping the whole context of worship and “Lordship” upside-down! Instead of God having to be served by human hands as Paul puts it, God is completely fulfilled and doesn’t need us to do anything to sustain or improve him. This is what separates Christianity and the beautiful gospel from every other religion on Earth. God is at the center and not us. So many times I have a tendency to put myself in the middle and believe that I’m doing God a service by doing something, such as helping in Gatlinburg for example. But since I can’t ever add to the magnificence of God in any way, I’m actually serving men and women and creation. This is incredible to think about because it is such a good pride-killer! How can any of us elevate ourselves to the level of one who serves God and in effect turn Him into a benefactor of some sort?
Why Don’t We Serve?
Another interesting idea that I stumbled upon recently is our incredible lack of participation in serving others the way God wants us to. The Church as a whole, but the American Church in particular, doesn’t care for the poor and homeless like it should. Referring back to the beautiful irony that our king and savior died in his service for humanity, we should be taking part in Christ’s sufferings as well every day. In fact, Paul writes to the Corinthians:
“If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” – 1 Corinthians 15: 19
What is Paul saying here though? At first glance, this appears to be an indictment of the Christian lifestyle as a whole. What Paul is trying to communicate is that his life, and the lives of many Christians in the early church was one full of freely-chosen suffering! Do you know any Christians who can say this about their lives? Paul willfully took on many of the toughest burdens of this world so that he and countless others may know the joy of pursuing the Lord. John Piper goes so far as to say that “The call of Christ is a call to live a life of sacrifice and loss and suffering – a life that would be foolish to live if there were no resurrection from the dead.” What does this mean for us though, in our modern age?
Christ is the strongest human to ever live in that he had the most power and wisdom and love to give to us. While we don’t have the same power that Jesus does, most of those who are reading this could be considered “strong”. Most of us come from upper-middle class backgrounds, have a strong supporting family in our faith, and attend a college that we’re relatively happy with (not to mention knowing Christ). This makes us strong and it is our duty to witness to the world, not only in what we say and do on Sundays but in how we choose to interact with our campuses and communities throughout our lives! This should look differently for everyone, but the Bible is clear that God wants our faith to transform our desires such that we are servants of our fellow man. This may very well bring suffering and at times make the life of one who is openly Christian very difficult. James is very explicit in his expectation of believers who are a part of what he calls “true religion”.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27
It really isn’t that complicated! James completely believes in and accepts the doctrine of grace that God offers us. However, James expects that this grace should change the desires and motives of our hearts. There is an interesting and captivating dance that occurs between the idea of grace and truth, especially in the Bible, but also in the ideas of this blog. While 1) Jesus came to serve us and we should all admit that this is the center of history and our salvation, 2) we can all do a better job of emulating Jesus and working to serve our communities. There is no cognitive dissonance between these two truths and this makes the gospel all the more beautiful and real!