The Meaning of Service in Christianity
The notion of service is intrinsic to Christianity, and is one that transcends all cultures, languages, and geopolitical restrictions. As such, the Bible emphasizes Christ’s dedication and service to others and encourages His followers to do likewise. However, what exactly does it mean to “serve from a biblical perspective”? In the essay on service through Christian worldview this quastion is analysed.
The New Testament teaches us to figuratively ‘take up our cross’ and walk with Jesus. As such, one of the main ways we embody what it means to be a follower of the Lord is through our actions towards one another. Consider Galatians 5: 13 – 14, in which Paul addresses the notion of serving one another through the lens of gospel freedom: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” As Paul puts it, while Jesus was completely righteous He also bore the consequences of sin by yielding Himself up in a sacrificial death where He provided atonement for our sins. On the cross, He fought and won our freedom; teaching us the true meaning of service - love. In other words, the fundamental principle of service is that as Christians we are to love and serve one another because we have likewise been loved and served by Christ Jesus. This is Paul’s point: we are free, but not to in the sense that we should misuse our freedom to serve our worldly desires. In contrast, we are free serve Christ; that is by freely loving and serving each other. Hence, the idea of ‘serving through a Biblical perspective’ is intensely conveyed when we use our freedom in Christ to serve others in love.
Furthermore, when we participate in Christ’s display of His love toward His church by openly and lovingly serving each other, we also demonstrate that we do not belong to the world. Thus, we not enslaved by selfish worldly desires, thereby testifying to non-believers that true freedom is only found in Christ. Just as Matthew 20: 26-18 states:“…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.” Hence, serving from a biblical perspective means that we, as followers of Jesus, dramatically exemplify what it means to follow Jesus.
Through my own experience of serving for this assignment, I have come to the realisation that the focus of serving is Jesus, not on earning favour with people. True service is not self-centred and it does not seek worldly affirmation, yet is instead a gift that should be used to proclaim the name of the Lord. In the same sense, serving others has also assisted as an encouragement for myself as I am aware that through helping others I simultaneously serve Jesus. As Hebrews 6:10 states: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
Such views are in accordance to the sentiment of Eric B. Watkins, who teaches that: “…we are free to love and serve the One who saved us, and we do this through the way in which we freely love and serve one another.” Watkins basic principle is that as Christians we are to serve one another, as Jesus did for His Body, the Church. Knowing we are part of a greater purpose gives us radically different reasons for serving one another—reasons such as the preservation and encouragement of fellowship among all believers that stem from the Holy Spirit dwelling within each of us.
To conclude, to understand the notion of service through a biblical perspective, we must understand that serving one another is not the main goal; serving Jesus is. Significantly, serving Jesus is from the heart, not an arduous task and hence true Christian service is meant to give utmost glory to God.