Every few years, we have individuals and groups competing for elected office with promises to serve the community. Sometimes candidates will even put forward plans to drastically improve the conditions experienced by the marginalised in our society. But with all this electioneering and claims of intentions to serve the community, where does this leave the Church? And perhaps the bigger question ought to be asked is not who to vote for but rather why Christians should serve and love thy neighbour.
Our focus should be on serving our community through our work and with the neighbourhood in where God places us. We take heart in following Jesus’ example of not being wanting to be served but rather sacrificing His life in service of all. Service is countercultural to the me me me attitude of the world. While serving in a church ministry is great, but we must do more outside of the safety and familiarity of our congregational walls and go into our neighbourhoods.
Reasons to Serve
Service to the community is important as it promotes unity. We humble ourselves by putting others first in listening and attending to their needs. The foundation of unity is humility just as Jesus says in Matthew chapter 23 verse 11 to 12 “The greatest among you will be your servant, for whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”.
Putting our faith into action through imitating Jesus’ example is something that Christians do in living in light of the Cross. We want people to see Jesus’ reflection in your life first and then through such allow the community to see Christ being witnessed. Even though we may not be familiar with our neighbourhood or know the families in the apartments next door but know that they’re watching to see how we live.
Christians are called not to be insular but rather to be serving our community. We build up not only relationships between church goers but also with our neighbours around us. Service models the Gospel in its expression of grace to others. Service also requires us to be ready and responsive to our community’s needs through active participation throughout our neighbourhood. We aren’t called to be lone wolves but to serve with and each other as 1 Peter chapter 4 verse 10 reminds us that, “each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms”.
Call to Go Forth
Churches fail at their mission if they simply aim to draw more parishioners in for Sunday service and do little else in the community to meet people where they are at. With the COVID pandemic impacting on families and individuals, some churches took on the effort to provide affordable groceries to those in need while others simply closed their doors awaiting the ability to return to sing hymns in person.
At first when we meet someone experiencing homelessness, it may be shocking to see someone not looking their best. But serving isn’t supposed to be glamorous nor glorious as when we assist those around us, we put do a modern-day equivalent of washing feet, you are imitating Jesus. One of the answers to getting more people in the community to know us and to be open to the Gospel message is see our church serving the neighbourhood.
In other words, service is not about adding another activity to our schedules. It’s about fleshing out servanthood in our neighbourhoods, where God has placed us. We should not serve out of compulsion but out of love just as Christ did for us. Ultimately when we recognise that Christ is the one who is receiving the glory, then the sky is the limit for what we can accomplish. Francis of Assisi famously said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” When you begin to serve others outside of the walls of the church, you will never be the same.
Love Thy Neighbour
In conclusion, serving promotes unit and challenges to demonstrate humility. We should look for ways to use our gifts wherever we are, because service can build unity within our neighbourhoods. Serving fosters teamwork. Service can build relationship because it is an expression of grace to someone else.
We must always be on the lookout for whatever needs might arise in our neighbourhood. When we serve, we realize how much we need each other. We each have gifts we can offer to others.
Serving imitates Jesus. Our neighbours extend beyond just the person living next door but the wider community especially those who are experiencing hardship. And we have the reminder of Jesus as written in Matthew chapter 25 verse 40 that “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me”.
Jesus Christ is in every neighbourhood, and He’s waiting for you to reach out and serve Him. He’s waiting for you to choose to be a servant, not to serve just when it’s convenient, but to serve when you are called to be His follower. So, for once we should not be like Jesus’ disciples James and John in Mark chapter 10 verse 35 to 45 where they wanted seats of honour in heaven, but rather we should heed Christ teaching that His disciples are to put others first and serve them.