Service and Submission

Service may be the most outwardly visible of the spiritual disciplines. Like all of the disciplines, practicing service stems from a relationship with Christ and in turn brings us to a deeper relationship. Frequently, people who are just starting to experience the ministry of service will choose ministries that keep them in charge. They will decide the when and the how of the project. Often time they will choose the recipient of the service they offer using some criteria they have devised and sometimes even decide the service that is needed giving the recipient little or no say in the matter. I remember one of my early “mission” trips where we looked for a house that needed roofing because I had roofing experience. We easily found a house that looked badly in need of a roof and knocked on the door. We explained who we were and asked if they would like a “free” roof. We assessed if their need was real and then began to replace the roof not even bothering to offer them a choice of shingle color.

Jesus washed the disciple’s feet before sharing in the Last Supper because it was the duty of the lowest servant available. The disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest and so Jesus took a towel and a basin and redefined greatness. You can’t be part of a group very long before someone starts to establish the pecking order for the group. Jesus did not do away with leadership. He just redefined it and did away with the pecking order system.

While Jesus was deeply concerned with the least, the last and the lost, his model of service is not concerned with the hierarchy of the “haves and have nots” keeping those served indebted or with “feelings” of how convenient it was for him to serve when the opportunity presented itself. When we purposely pursue a course of service that lifts up the good of those we serve and does not draw attention to ourselves, a deep change occurs in everyone involved. Even more than the immediate change we experience, we become aware of a deep joy and love of God. This in turn leads us to more life-altering service.

There is an element of submission in every true act of service. The discipline of submission is possibly the most abused and misunderstood of the disciplines. Submission does not require us to tolerate abuse or oppression in ourselves or others but to trust in God and submit to God’s will and address issues of abuse or oppression even at a personal cost. The biblical teachings on submission deal with the way we view other people. Do we continue to live in the system of class and position or do we view others as people of equal value and strive to see their needs as equal to or even more important than our own? Through submission we are freed to value other people. Their wants, needs, and desires become important to us. We have the ability to choose to give up our own “rights” for the good of others.

The acts of submission and service are intertwined and often the act of submission will lead us to an act of service in some area. In submission we no longer need to be the authority or the expert. We no longer need to convince the other that we know what is best or have their best interest at heart. One of the ways I often talk about it is that we no longer have the need to make someone else wrong in order for us to be right. We take up not only our own cross but may find ourselves carrying someone else’s for a brief time. We may find ourselves praying that they would be filled with a new power and authority. A friendship might develop and even allow them to help us. When we live out the life of taking up our cross and following Jesus, we find that they are growing closer to God and so are we.

See you Sunday,