Serving in the Community (11-21-20)
A Quick recap of “What is Service?”
Service is using your God-given gifts to sacrificially minister to and love others. As a Christian, your service is your ministry! The Greek word for ministry means “to attend upon someone.” God-honoring service is motivated by the sacrificial love of God. Selfishness causes me to only do what is good for me; selfish love causes me to only help people when, in the end, it is good for me.
Serve Those Outside the Church, in the Community
Luke 6:31-36 (NIV) “Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Jesus has made His charge to us very clear: We are to love others!
Loving and serving others is the mission to which God has called us. It is the work of being outward and others-focused with the goal of expressing and sharing the love of Jesus. Jesus told His followers not to remove themselves from the world and create an isolated, Christian sub-culture. Rather, He taught His followers to be engaged in the world.
The church was not created for itself. It was created to worship God and to spread His love to others; we were each created for a missional purpose. Because of this mission, those of us in the church have to have hearts that break for those who have not yet experienced the love and grace of God and joy of knowing and following Jesus. We must not measure our success by our internal numbers, our professionalism, or our production. Instead, we must measure our success based on how we are being sanctified in discipleship unto sacrificial love for each other and the world, all for the glory of our great God.
In our first reading this week in Jeremiah 29, we read God’s instructions to His people while they were exile. While we are often guilty of pulling these commands for these people in this time out of their context and applying them to ourselves today, there is a general equity that we see in God’s heart for us, still today, that applies greatly.
Jeremiah 29:7 “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf …”
Like the exiles then, we too are sent by God into this land as exiles to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20) and to go out into the local city, region, country, and world to be a witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). Because of this missional call to love and serve others, we in the church should have a heart for being involved in our local community and in activities that express the love of God outside of our internal church events. We want to see people and love people as Jesus did (Matthew 9:35-38).
Are you seeking the welfare of the city? Are you praying for the city in which you live?
We cannot remain in our church or Christian “bubbles.” We must get out there and share the good news God has given us. We must sacrificially bind ourselves with the servant’s towel, just as Jesus did in order to serve those who rank less and desire nothing. We do this because Jesus modeled it for us, and He commanded us to do it. We do this because it is how the gospel will go out; it is an extension of the love and selfless life of the kingdom of which we are now members.
Look again at Matthew 5:38-42 with me.
Matthew 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
It is easy to misunderstand what Jesus is teaching us here when He says, “When someone slaps you on the cheek, turn to him the other also.” A lot of people have said, “Ah, Jesus is teaching you that you should never stop injustice, and no matter what somebody does to you, you should let them walk all over you.” That’s silly because Jesus doesn’t talk like that; Jesus is all about justice. So, what does He mean? First, you must realize that being slapped on the cheek does not mean somebody is trying to beat you up. You don’t slap somebody on the cheek when you’re trying to beat him up. You punch him in the mouth, or you hit him with a bat. That’s not what He is talking about here.
A slap on the cheek is an insult—a response of disgust!
Jesus is very clearly saying, “When someone insults you, there must be no concern on your part to save face. There must be no more concern to deal with your honor or your dignity.” In opposition to saving face in man’s eyes, a Christian is somebody who is satisfied in his identity in Christ.He no longer receives his worth from man; therefore, a Christian is empowered to forgive, to show grace, and to invite restoration by opening up the other cheek.
Why should we turn the other cheek, why should we give them our tunic, why should we go the second mile? Because Christ in us is empowering us to pursue the path of relationship restoration.
To turn your other cheek means not to worry about the insult of man, but instead to invite them in and say, “Anytime you want to come back and kiss this one, I’m ready. Anytime you want to get this relationship back on the right level and on the right footing, I am ready.” A Christian is never condescending in light of insults but only compassionate, because a Christian sees that we both are utterly desperate for the Cross of Christ which means I am not better than you.
You see, if you’re not grounded in Christ alone, you have to base your self-image on the idea that you’re different than “those people” or that you are better than the next guy. This is how the Pharisees lived. Without Jesus as your power, you can’t possibly say, “I am just like that person. I have the same ability to do what they do.” You can’t. Outside of Christ, you couldn’t admit it; it would utterly destroy your identity in self-righteousness. But a Christian’s self-image is based on the free grace of God and not his works. Therefore, we are able to look at even the worst people and have compassion on them and know, “You’re my neighbor and I realize it could be me right where you are if not for God’s grace at work in me”. We must engage the world God has us in with the love, grace, and new life we have found in Christ. Are you engaging the community around you—praying for it? Are you loving and serving the lost with your time and gifts?
I want to give you four ways that you can continually be loving and serving others in your community.
First, here is the goal: Meet people’s needs in order to build authentic relationships, so we can share the gospel in word and deed.
- Share your testimony: Take time to share your testimony and the good news of Jesus Christ with those God supernaturally puts in your path each day.
- Build relationships: Intentionally cultivate relationships with the non-believing people God has supernaturally put in your life that you interact with regularly—family, neighbors, friends, co-workers.
- Look for practical ways to serve others: Use your God-given talents and resources to serve and love others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Get involved in community projects: Participate in special projects or fundraisers aimed at loving others with gospel intentionality.
May we be known for our compassion as well as our cling to truth. May we be active in giving our lives away for the good of those damned to hell and desperate for Christ alone. May our God be worshipped as a result of our sacrificial service.
By His grace and for His glory,
Soldiers for Jesus MC