In today’s western Christianese world, we typically define “serving” as showing up, shaking hands, and/or filling roles that require little effort and commitment (and if you have been in your local church two months or longer- you should be serving!). None of these things are wrong! However, I would like to propose that serving is not just “showing up,” but it is opening our hearts to see and serve people– especially people who draw us out of our comfort zones.
I like to think about the story of “The Woman at the Well” from John 4. Within religious and spiritual circles, this story is often used to convey the message of Everlasting Life through the acceptance of Jesus as the messiah. In short, Jesus meets the woman at a well mid-day, gives her a word of knowledge (her life story), uses the parable of drinking water to quench thirst for an eternity, and because of His words and actions she runs off to tell the town about this Jesus guy. It’s a beautiful recount of God’s plan for mercy, love, and grace, but what I love about this story is the contextual setting in which our selected narrative plays out. Jesus sent his disciples away and was alone next to a well in the late morning.
The historical significance of this sequence is monumental! Respectful and virtuous women of the day drew water early in the morning, but women who were deemed as having a low quality of character drew water mid-morning– the two did not mix. Furthermore, men of good reputation would have never been seen around the well with these “other women” for fear of scandalous rumors and immoral indictments, but here we find Jesus mingling and ministering to the dishonored outcast. He knew her value.
This story causes me to wonder if we ever let our own premonitions and prejudices become obstacles from ministering or serving others. With very little self-reflection, I know I am guilty of casting unjust judgements toward others given their condition. Statements come to mind like “It was their decision and they need to learn to live with it” or “they made their bed and they have to lie in it.” But Jesus met people where they were: the woman at the well, the harlot about to be stoned, tax collectors (aka… a government sanctioned thief named Matthew) to mention a few. Serving is meeting people where they are and telling them that they are worthy of time and attention regardless of where they have been, are going, or will go.
Many people are good at this, but the truth is that as a whole the Western Church has not been great at this. We know this as truth because of the church’s reputation with non-believers. I want to encourage everyone to refocus on looking for opportunities to impact and serve others. Don’t just show up, shake a hand, or sit in service. Be present! Be intentional! Serve with the love and acceptance of Jesus. Don’t be idle where you worship; allow God to use you to serve others the way He modeled.
Christianity is the greatest community of all time and let’s show people why!