Why I serve others

There are two types of people in the world. Those who will serve others because of what they can do for them in return and those who serve others expecting nothing in return.  It’s pretty easy to spot the first group of people.  They only care about doing something good for others who can return the favor at some point down the road. It’s very rare to find the kind of person who serves expecting anything in return.

I hope you are the type of person who serves your friends or neighbors without expecting anything in return. However, inevitably the person who serves out of a sincere heart will be forced to question your motives. You will probably ask yourself:  Why am I sacrificing for others? Does anyone notice what I’m doing? Does anyone care? These questions are common for people that sacrifice their time and energy serving others.

I was recently reading a fascinating book by Sam James. He was a missionary to Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam war. He was trapped in the middle of his American citizenship and the chaos surrounding Vietnam. At one point he became exhausted trying to meet the needs of the Vietnamese people. This was the moment that he had to wrestle with God about his work in this war-torn country.  The answer that he got from the Lord really spoke to me this week. “You are not in Vietnam because you love the Vietnamese people.  You are there because I love them, and I want to love them through you.”[1]  This statement got me thinking about why I’m trying to serve people in my neighborhood.  Here’s what the Lord reminded me after reading this statement:

Because he loved me

God gives me the capacity to love others. This point is clearly demonstrated in 1 John 4:19. God alone can give me a heart that is willing to love other people. He has to create inside of me a capacity to love others. Basically, this verse is saying, that Jesus has to put his love inside my heart in order for me to love others.

I don’t really have a heart that loves the way God wants my heart to love other people. God has to put that heart inside of me. And if you were honest… I think you would have to admit the same thing. Therefore, one of the clearest indications of the love of God is the way that God’s people love others.

And he loves them

God has demonstrated his love for them on the cross.  The Bible describes the ultimate demonstration of God’s love is found in Galatians 2:20. It says that Jesus was willing suffer and die to show me how much he loves me. Because Jesus was willing to die to show his love to me, I should be willing to sacrifice to show his life to others. The greatest demonstration of love ever recorded in human history is Jesus’s death on the cross in place of myself.

Jesus didn’t die only for me, but for the sins of all those who come to him in faith. Therefore, by sacrificing for others I am showing how much Jesus loves them. Perhaps this is why, when asked which is the greatest commandment, Jesus offers the answer and its implication. In Luke 10:27 Jesus explains that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of your heart. However, he also says that in order to do this you have to love your neighbor as well. For Jesus, there is a connection between loving others and loving God. Jesus expects us to show our neighbors how much God loves them.

I serve them

Jesus left me as his hands and feet. It is my job to show people how much he loves people.  They will only understand how much he loves them by the way that I love them.  First Corinthians 12:12 describes the church as Jesus’s body. The people of the church make up the visible presence of God on planet earth. Therefore, I have to serve my neighbors in order for them to see Jesus at work in my neighborhood.

This point is beautifully demonstrated by Jesus at the end of the book of John. In John 21:15-16 Jesus challenges Peter about his heart. Jesus tells Peter that if he genuinely loves him, Peter will take care of Jesus’s sheep.  In other words, Jesus is saying that to love others was to love his people. Or, reversing the logic, you are showing Jesus your love for him by loving his people. I plan to keep on serving my neighbors with the love of Jesus.  My hope is that I love them long enough and well enough that they will start to see Jesus in the way that I love and serve them.

[1] The Making of a Servant, Sam James, p. 216.

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