Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
I have a friend who regularly whips me at racquetball. He’s kind enough to let me serve first most of the time, and today I thought about that word as President Stewart spoke. He tosses me the ball–“Your serve,” he says. I serve the ball, and it wouldn’t be easier for him to hit if I just tossed the ball in his direction. That’s service, right?
Then I thought of the four years Kristi and I spent living near Chicago. We made a trip into the city now and then, and after getting off the train, we’d usually head up Madison Street and cross the Chicago River. The bridge always hosted at least one person with their hand out. A homeless person, most of the time, someone who held a foam cup or McDonald’s cup in the hope that someone would help.
I wish I could say that I never looked the other way, never fixed my gaze on my companion or where I was going or an imaginary speck of lint on my sweater. I wish I could say I always did everything I could to serve them.
That’s what service is, after all: making someone else’s way easier, their burden lighter. The apostle Paul says “Don’t just look out for yourself.” We’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but once more won’t hurt. (Much.)
In keeping with our president’s message today, focus on Jesus as our example for service. Paul goes on to say, “Be like Jesus.” Jesus’ mission was to serve, and he did it again and again, performing countless acts of service during his walk among us. From making wine for a wedding to washing dirty feet at a farewell dinner, Jesus served. From his birth in a barn to his death as a criminal, Jesus served. From the throne of heaven to a borrowed tomb, Jesus served.
But what if he hadn’t?
What if Jesus had treated us as I sometimes treat others? The cashier I ignore or berate. The person who buses the table after I eat. The man who sits in the same place every day, his whole life in a bag at his feet, his hope in an empty cup.
Thanks be to God that Jesus didn’t find something better to do, someone better to serve. He didn’t shy away from the dirty business of redemption, even though it meant he would have to die. And he continues to look toward our needs and the needs of those around us who suffer. What will you do?
It’s your serve.