In the last several months I have been writing a blog around practices and rhythms we put in our lives to become a person who is more like Jesus. A person who is more like Jesus is a person or people who are bent toward God and People. We decided that this type of person or people have four distinct practices present in their lives:
This blog is the final blog in this series, and we will close out by talking about servant practices. Service is the thing none of us have time for, but the thing we can’t afford to avoid - that is if we are wanting to create rhythms and practices that shape us into a people that are more like Jesus. After all, Jesus summed up his reason for coming to the world, by actually saying, I didn’t come to be served, but to serve. Paul will later described the functional form Jesus took on was that of a servant. James will even go so far as to say your faith isn't even real if it isn't shown through a life of service. In short, you can’t be a person being shaped into the image of Jesus if your rhythms and practices do not include the practice of serving.
I find it ironic and sad that growing up, people focused on what is often times called the "devotional time" or "quiet time" as a measure of spiritual maturity. Hear me, I am not against these, in fact I am the biggest advocate I know of for these. But when I was growing up, no one ever asked me how my times of service were going or how I was serving the "least of these". And if someone did ask me if I was serving, I could rightly assume they were referencing time spent as an usher, greeter, or youth worker, but not giving my time away for the other. Why wasn't this put on the same pedestal as the oh' so holy "quiet time"? In fact, Jesus tells a pretty frightening story about those who do all the good religious stuff, like show up to church religiously and have their daily quiet time but neglect a life pointed toward the least of these. This blog is not for the purpose of attempting to figure out "why?" that became so widely accepted again, but simply to say, if you just read the texts for what they say, you don't even need this explained, it is threaded all throughout scripture. At the end of the day, this has to come back front and center to the rhythmic life of the Christian. So, if you've never been one to serve, here's how we help guide people into this at Austin New Church. We use 3E's that we stole from Rick McKinnely of Imago Dei: Expose, Experience, and Engage. But rather than talk about how you can do this in a group setting, I'm going to talk about how you can do this in your own personal life.
- Expose: You need to take responsibility of exposing yourself to the realities, injustices, cycles of poverty, and brokenness in your city, town, or county. Figure out where the brokenness of life comes together the darkest in your context. Expose yourself to populations you normally would stay away from, better yet, expose yourself to populations that you typically judge as being - sinful, lazy, poor, drain on society...you get the point. Find out where they need to be served. Find out why? Find out what that looks like? Grab some books on modern slavery, homelessness, cycles of poverty, etc, read anything that would speak a different point of view into your already made-up mind. Expose yourself to real issues. Once you done this, you are faced with a choice: denial or experience.
- Experience: Now figure out how to get involved with those who are serving these populations. Sign-up. Commit. Do-it. Lay your judgements at the door. Remember that time Jesus said, "wait, I'm not going to serve them, all they want is free stuff!" You don't remember that time? That's because he never asked that question. Remember that time he asked, "Wait, before I serve that person with AIDS, I want to know how they got-it (which is just code for, I want to know if they deserved it)." You don't remember that time?!?! It' because he never did it. Any time you are ready to justify why you won't serve a particular population, remember one thing, "Jesus willingly washed the feet of Judas" and Jesus loved and served all of those who would later turn on him and yell, "crucify him!" and his response would be, "forgive them, for they know not what they do." Just get out there and serve even if you don't feel like it! I think once you begin to experience different service opportunities, it will move to a level of engagement.
- Engage: This is when you begin to engage in a life of service. Your heart has been attached to a certain people group, a certain cause, and you are broken, just like Jesus was when he wept over Jerusalem. Let your heart bleed for those who are other, for those who are less fortunate. The place of engagement is when you witness a change of heart in yourself: the very population that used to make your grow cold, indignant and self-righteous now makes you broken and weep, it makes you want to wrap your arms around those people and hope that they feel the arms of Jesus in your embrace. Engagement is when you begin to live your life in solidarity with the enslaved, broken, marginalized, oppressed, and poor and allow the future trajectory of your life to become shaped by serving them!
The truth is, we don't have time for this! But the question is not, "can I make time" as if it were an option. The mandate is, "make time" as if your faith depended on it. If you want to be a person who is being made into the image of Jesus, you have to begin to intentionally engage in servant practices. If Jesus' whole life could be summed up this way, one would think our lives should in some way or another be described this way as well.