Word, Fellowship and Service: these three components of the Christian life are so closely intertwined that if one of them is missing in the Christian life, the whole is inevitably weakened. Preaching the Good News of God’s love, living not in isolation, but in the Spirit of community, and serving others for the good of all are actions that define the follower of Jesus.
Nearly all historical faiths of the world incorporate some form of exhortation to altruism, but in its beginnings Christianity did so to such an extent that it became the hallmark of the movement even in its infancy: “Behold how these Christians love one another,” said one secular observer.
For Christians in general, the call to service is grounded in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, following the mandate to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
Fundamental in service is the insistence on the dignity of the human person, a dignity based on the belief that human beings, male and female, are made in the image of God. All persons are loved and valuable in God’s sight, thus they must be also in the eyes of Christ-followers.
The familiar parable of the Last Judgment illustrates the point: “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome. . . .” (Mt. 25:31-46). Indeed, in this parable we learn that our very salvation depends on the extent to which our life clearly demonstrates this dimension of service.
Of course, a particular pitfall needs to be avoided here. We are not saved by serving others if we are using other people as a mere means to holiness instead of as an end in themselves. The person we serve is to be loved and served for herself/himself and not just as “a symbol of the Christ.” The love of God and the love of neighbor are distinct as well as united.
Closely related to the notion that we serve (or fail to serve) Christ when we serve (or fail to serve) other people, is the sheer power of the example set by Jesus when he washed the feet of his followers. “What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do.” (John 13:13-15)
In addition to the notion of human dignity, another basis for Christian service is the dimension of “mutuality.” In other words, the road of service is a two-way street. Walking this road includes discovering, in surprising and humbling ways, that one receives as much as one gives, and usually much more. This should not be surprising. For over twenty centuries Christians have endeavored to practice what Jesus taught us about service of others.
The emphasis on the mutuality dimension of service is particularly important as affluent and privileged Christians hear with new ears the “cry of the poor.” In the last quarter of the 20th Century, new voices—both male and female—turned us toward new understandings not only of the dignity of human persons, but also of the value of the life experience of those persons, especially the experience of the poor, the marginalized, the shunned. The Free Methodist Church, at its best, has always championed these persons and their needs.
A theology of service must call our attention to the fact that a faith-filled reading of the Scriptures leads to the inescapable conclusion that Christians, each according to her/his own talents, are obliged to be in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized. To engage in service, to reflect on one’s own experience and that of others, and to move toward action on behalf of peace, justice, truth, reconciliation, and love: these are constitutive elements of the Christian life of service, lived with an attentiveness to the common good and with a deep and abiding faith. We serve, not to feel better about ourselves, but to build a more humane and just society, what Christians call the Kingdom of God.*
Are you looking for a place to serve the Lord through WFMC? There are many and the opportunities change regularly. New ministries are always forming. The best way to get an overview of the most current places to serve is to download, complete and return to the church office this “Serving Joyfully” brochure, or check out this listing of our current needs here.