Why We're Here: The Call to Serve
- Tuesday, September 05, 2006
As Christians, we are citizens of a Kingdom on the ethereal edge between this world and the next — in a thin place. Our true home is not here but in a far different place, for we are born of God and will return to him. We may live our lives looking forward to heaven, but we also look backward from it: seeing ourselves through God’s eyes, not our own; living by faith, not by sight.
I’ll never forget the movie E.T. In a classic scene, E.T. tries to make a device to signal the spaceship that left without him, all the while mumbling, “E.T. phone home.” When I pray, I sometimes think, "BJ [my nickname] phone home." Yet unlike E.T., we need not signal our home base. God knows where we are. He only hopes that, as Kingdom dwellers, we remember where we are.
As citizens of the Kingdom, we are to model ourselves after Jesus — a King who was a servant - for he asks no less of us. As Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Just as Jesus spent his life in service, we are called to adopt service as a lifestyle, submitting not only to God but also to each other. In the process, we free ourselves from the tyranny of our own needs to value the hopes and dreams of others.
As I came to know Dave better, I was struck by his steadfast commitment to service. He reached out not only to me in my solitude but also to many others who were alone in the world. For years he had kept in touch with a prisoner who, because of Dave’s faithful visits, had become a Christian in prison. Often Dave would read Steve’s poignant letters from prison to the congregation. It was clear that while Steve’s body may have been imprisoned, his soul had been freed. Dave had also kept in touch with a fireman who tragically had contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease in his forties. John had not been much of a believer, but Dave was undaunted. When no one else would visit, Dave was there, literally to the end. Dave was also there for an old congregant who could no longer attend church. An avid Red Sox fan, Mary had always told Dave that she wouldn’t die until the Red Sox were victorious. After the Red Sox won the World Series, Dave visited Mary in the nursing home. There she sat, at the age of ninety-three, restrained to a chair, barely able to communicate, receiving with joy Dave’s gift of a Red Sox World Series championship cup.
Serving others may not always be an easy task, but fortunately we need not bear these burdens alone. We can lay them at the feet of Jesus, who beckons to the burdened and weary to find rest in him.
It would be wonderful if all we needed to do is rest in Jesus. Yet as members of a divine Kingdom, straddling the ethereal border between this world and the next, we are called to do far more than rest. As Philip Yancey observes, “Jesus offers a peace that involves new turmoil, a rest that involves new tasks. The ‘peace of God, which transcends all understanding’ promised in the New Testament is a peace in the midst of warfare, a calmness in the midst of fear, a confidence in the midst of doubt. Living as resident aliens in a strange land, citizens of a secret kingdom, what other kind of peace should we expect? In this world restlessness, and not contentment, is a sign of health.”
The war rages on between good and evil, and we are foot soldiers on the front lines in a cosmic battle. How can we, as mere fallen mortals, begin to fight the overwhelming evil in this fallen world? We can if we begin with ourselves, actively turning toward God to repent of our sins, while turning away from our own petty concerns to help others. In committing ourselves to doing God’s will, we can serve as God’s instruments, helping to make his Kingdom on earth a living, breathing reality in our lives and the lives of others.
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