Serve One Another
1 Peter 4:8-11
Bill Wilson started Metro World Child Ministries in one of New York’s toughest neighborhoods. He believed that God had called him to work with children in a community that was littered with gang violence, drugs, and poverty. It has been a difficult ministry, he has been beaten up and robbed, stabbed twice and shot once. But he answered God’s call to serve the children of that community and refuses to leave. And if you are going to be a part of this ministry, you have to be willing to serve the community in whatever way God has gifted you to serve.
Bill shares the story of a young woman who began to come to the church and wanted to be be involved. Because she couldn’t speak english, she had no idea where she could serve. So, Bill put her on one of the busses that transported the children from their neighborhoods to church. Every week she would find the worst-looking kid on the bus, put him on her lap and whisper over and over the only words she had learned in English: I love you. Jesus loves you.
After several months, she became attached to one little boy in particular. The boy didn’t speak. He came to Sunday School every week with his sister and sat on the woman’s lap, but he never made a sound. Each week she would tell him all the way to Sunday School and all the way home, I love you and Jesus loves you. One day, to her amazement, the little boy turned around and stammered, I love you too. Then he put his arms around her and gave her a big hug and whispered in her ear and I love Jesus too!
That was 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon. Four hours later the little boy was found dead. His own mother in a drug induced rage had beaten him to death and thrown his body in the trash. I love you and Jesus loves you were some of the last words this little boy heard in his short life, from the lips of a woman who could barely speak English. This woman served God in what we would think is such a small insignificant way, but because of her a little boy who perhaps had never really heard the word love in his own home, experienced and responded to the love of Christ.
Our text this morning is taken from 1 Peter chapter 4, as we continue to examine what it means to Model Love in the Model City by the way we model love to one another. In verse 10 Peter says, God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
In this letter, Peter has been reminding Christians of the hope they have in the midst of their suffering. And here in verse 10 Peter reminds us of some important truths. First, Peter wanted to remind you of a truth that we often forget; God has given each and everyone of us a gift, talent, or ability. One of the great struggles that has always existed in the Church is that we look at how talented and gifted others are and wonder if we have anything to offer. But Peter is reminding us that if we are a Child of God then Jesus has supernaturally gifted you to serve.
Secondly, it reminds us that our gifts are not given to us for our own benefit. God gave you gifts and talents and abilities for the benefit of other people, to be used to serve others. Jesus has called us to serve one another.
Peter is just repeating the words that he heard from Jesus who told them: You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, … Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28)
Mature followers of Jesus understand that they are saved so that they can serve like Jesus did. Too many churches have hired ministers, staff, musicians, whoever in an effort to draw a crowd. The end result has been that we have attracted crowds of people who only show up to be served. Then when they don’t feel like people are giving them the attention they crave, they go somewhere else. Jesus never called us to sit around and let paid folks take care of our needs, to work so that we can be happy. Jesus called us to take up a towel and to find our greatness in the way we serve one another.
When you gave your life to Christ, you actually asked God to make you like Jesus who embodied the life of a servant. The gift God gives you will determine your area of service, but your attitude determines the maturity and effectiveness of that ministry.
But it all starts with the fact that if we are going to be like Jesus, we need to know that Serving Means Being Available.
In Matthew 20 starting in verse 29 we read: As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped …
I love the fact that Jesus stopped. There are so many opportunities in life, but we never see them because we are rushing from one thing to the other. If you want to be used by God you must be willing to be available, you must be willing be interrupted. Have you ever noticed that most of Jesus’ ministry happened during an interruption? The blind man, the lame man, the paralyzed man, the dead son of the widow from Nain were all were interruptions. Even His first miracle was an interruption at a wedding.
Jesus was willing to stop and allow Himself to be interrupted because He had an attitude that allowed Him to be available. Jesus never told someone to wait until tomorrow or a more convent time, servant hearted people don’t procrastinate. They’re spontaneous and they’re sensitive to the needs around them, they live in the midst of whimsey.
Mature Christians know the importance of being available. Everyone of us in this room who is serious about living out our thanksgiving to God must be willing to step out of our comfort zone and ask, God what do You want me to do? The Model City has fallen on hard times, we have hurting people all around us. We cannot model love here if we refuse to be available.
I understand that you are busy, I understand that you are raising a family, working a job, putting out fires in your own life. I understand there are demands on your time, you have to fix something at the house, meet a deadline, get to the grocery store. It’s so easy to look at all of the things that we have to do that it becomes second nature to find reasons why we cannot find the time to serve. But in my own life I have realized that being busy is just a great excuse I use to keep me from being available. People who are interested in serving are busy, but they also know that ministry happens in the midst of interruptions.
We love to talk about Jesus’ miracles, the way that He restored the sight to the blind, brought peace to the raging sea, fed the multitudes with a few loaves and fish. It’s so easy to get caught up on the miraculous that we forget Jesus said His mission on then earth was to seek and to save those who are lost. He was called to preach the good news, and to speak words of hope and forgiveness. Yet we see Jesus consistently willing to be interrupted so that He could serve. Jesus was busy, He had a lot of ministry to accomplish in three short years, but He had the heart of a servant. If we are going to wear His name, serving one another must be a priority in our lives. For that to happen we need to make room for it.
Never forget what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58 Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is never wasted. It’s easy to fall into the trap that if we are going to property serve God it must be in some big and grandiose way. We forget that God is calling us to serve Him with what ever we have. Paul says that nothing we do for God, no matter how big or how small, is ever wasted. We need to stop leaning into our own wisdom, cunning, and power and remember that God has supernaturally gifted us to serve and He wants us to use those gifts for His glory.
Don’t wait for conditions to be perfect before you serve. Offer what you have and God will bless it. We need to get to the place in our lives where serving God is a delight and not a duty. We must get out of the place where we only serve out of obligation and see it as a great opportunity to join Jesus in the work He is accomplishing in the world. We serve Him with gratefulness because everything we have and are has been given us through Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we see that Service is a sign of Freedom.
Paul writes in Galatians 5: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:13–15)
Paul has been reminding the church in Galatia that they have been set free from the Law of Moses. We are saved from something bad to live into something good. Your salvation didn’t culminate at the moment God pulled you out of the ditch. Salvation is God's declaration that our best life is still to come. But just because we are free does not mean that we are free to do whatever we want. We are not free to serve ourselves or chase after our fleshly desires. God has given us freedom, but also given us a purpose for our freedom. We were given freedom to serve one another in love.
In essence, you are free to be slaves; but it is not like the slavery you had before. Before when you were enslaved to sin, you were lost, doomed, separated from God, and under his wrath. But now we have been given our freedom so that we can choose to become slaves of each other, which is voluntary and a source of deep joy.
That’s the whole point of our freedom, we are free to choose to live out our love for God and for one another, by serving each other. We are called to follow the example of Jesus by serving one another out of our love for God which bleeds over into the way that we love one another.
Paul writes to the Corinthians: If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3) All of the service in the world is worthless if you don’t have love. This is often what we are missing when we look at these commands on how we are to relate to one another. True love will overflow into serving one another. When I finally understand God’s love then I will be motivated to love others and serve others.
Love is Paul’s overriding theme in life, For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mature Christians do more than just talk about loving other people. They model love through serving others. The Jewish Rabbis would say that this law is best explained by treating others with the same care and concern that you would have for yourself. If you are hot and you would like a glass of water, then you make sure you serve someone by giving them water when it is hot. If you are cold and would like a jacket, then you make sure you serve someone by giving them a coat when it is cold.
It’s actually pretty simple to serve your neighbor in love. You just do for someone else, they very thing you would do for yourself. This command that serves as the bedrock of Judaism then is carried forward into Christianity calls us to take our natural, already existing love of self and make it the measuring tape for your love of others. Imagine what it would look like if we had the same zeal for the good of others and acted on it like we do for ourselves! Love your neighbor like you would love yourself. Do for them what you would do for yourself.
If we are really interested in Modeling Love in the Model City we need to understand that people will only feel the love of Christ when we are actively using our freedom to serve them. If we do not become slaves to each other, then we are not loving each other. This is the picture Paul wast us to see. Love gives. Love sacrifices. Love serves. Love forfeits. Love yields. I cannot say that I love you and then turn around and show no regard or consideration for you. Love looks out for the well being of others.
But our natural bend is to only think about our needs, our wants, our desires. No relationship can survive if the people in that relationship have become slaves to their own interests. There is strife and contention in churches, families, and friendships because we over focus on what we want. We complain, argue, or fight because we turn our focus inward. When we stop expressing love through our actions for each other, we lose the ability to have harmony and unity.
James asked in chapter 4 of his letter. Do you know where your fights and arguments come from? Then he gives us the answer: They come from the selfish desires that war within you. Fights come because we stop serving each other. Fights in churches come because we begin to only focus on our desires. Fights in families comes because we stop serving each other and focus on our wants. Fights in marriages come because we stop serving each other and try to meet our own needs. And as long as we are fighting, we have become slaves again.
Imagine what it would look like if we had the same care and compassion for others that we actually have for ourselves! Love your neighbor like you would love yourself. Let our words and actions so reflect this love.
To serve like Jesus you must be available and grateful but you also must be faithful. That means you don’t give up. You don’t quit in the middle of your assignment. When I finally get to see my Saviors face I want to hear Him say, well done my good and faithful servant. I want to be about the business God gave me to do. If you want to hear those same words you are going to be available and willing to use your freedom to serve every day God allows you to live. You may retire from your job someday, but you never retire from serving.
God has placed you in this body on purpose, you have something very valuable to offer here. Maybe that is a spiritual gift or talent or interest or hobby. God has brought you here for a reason. So how will God use you?
Make the investment to serve. One day you’re going to stand before God and He’s going to ask you, What did you do with what I gave you, the talents, the abilities, the background, the experiences, the freedom, the education, the family experiences? How will you respond? You were put here on earth to practice serving. God has given you everything you need. It is up to you to use it. You can make a difference.