Saturday, February 26, 2011

Loving and Serving

I was reading the story of the Good Samaritan this morning.  How the very "religious" lawyer questioned Christ about the means of inheriting eternal life, something I'm sure that had been debated often among the learned men of the time, apparently with no set conclusion being reached.  As the Great Teacher, Jesus turns the question back on him.  "What does the law say?  How do you read it?"

The man, I'm sure, was thrilled to show off his knowledge.  "Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."

"Very good.  Do this and you will live."

Have you ever had the experience of feeling like you need to justify your actions to someone, even when they haven't questioned you about them?  "Well, I did this because...."  Apparently the lawyer had that same feeling, because he asked for clarification of the word "neighbor".  And Jesus gave it.  I'm sure you know the story - if not you can read it for yourself in Luke 10, verses 30-37.  In the end Jesus had clearly shown the man that a religious love for God is empty if it is not lived out in our lives.  Saying that you love God without that love overflowing in service to others is useless.

Usually, when we get to the end of the story we stop and dwell on the lesson that Christ has so aptly brought home to our hearts.  But let's not stop quite yet.  Imagine yourself as one of the disciples listening to Christ speak.  Judging from other passages in the gospels, I expect that at least one of them was probably saying to himself, "I definitely am serving God.  I've gone and preached about Him.  I've left my family and business to be Jesus' disciple. I'm glad I'm not that lawyer...."

With that in mind, pick up the story again in verse 38 of Luke.  Here we find ourselves a little later - whether hours or days isn't clear - entering the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and we come into another familiar story.  Martha is being the consummate, officious, busy hostess and Mary, although I don't believe she was neglecting her duties, was only doing what she needed to, so that she could sit at Jesus' feet and drink in His presence.  As I read this passage, I can picture Martha serving at the table.  "Did you ask for another drink, Peter?"  "What about everyone else? Does anyone need any more to drink?"  "Here, let me get that for you."  "I'm sure you must need another plate of roast vegetables."  "Mary!  Can't you find anything more to do than sit there???"  "Lord, make her help me!"

I can see Jesus look at her tenderly, smile, and shake his head.  "Martha, Martha.  You are so troubled and anxious about everything!  Only one thing was asked for, and now you are in a flutter about everything at the table.  Mary has chosen to serve unobtrusively over here where she can also listen.  This is the better place, and I won't take it away from her."  While the phrasing is my own, the Lord has really used that passage to teach me a lesson.  While saying you love God (like the lawyer) and not taking the trouble to serve others renders your love useless; so also serving incessantly (like Martha) and not taking time to love God makes your serving of no value.

As I've talked with different ladies in regards to GraceWorks, I've seen this fight for balance over and over.  There are those who talk about their love for God, but they struggle with, or sometimes actually fight against, serving their husbands and family by keeping up their homes with a joyful, diligent spirit.  On the other hand, there are those who serve and serve and serve - keeping their homes spotless, or their churches well-staffed, or their children at every baseball and football practice, but their love for Christ is cold and ineffectual.  Which side do you tend towards?  Love without service can make us critical and cold towards those around us that are less "spiritual".  Service without love will cause us to wallow in self-pity or a whining, ungracious spirit of hurt when others don't do what we think they should.  Let's seek to be more like Mary this week.  Let's settle ourselves at the feet of the Saviour and serve Him and others as He asks.  Unobtrusively.  Diligently. Quietly.  Thankfully.  Lovingly.

May you be blessed and be a blessing!


nursefriendly said...

What an excellent point. I battle against the extremes all the time. Lord, help me obtain balance in my life.

nursefriendly said...

Very well said. I battle the two extremes frequently. I pray to have more balance in my life.