As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
One of the church’s most serious diseases is the idea that it is the church’s job to “serve me.” How often have I heard someone say, “I’m leaving that church. It just never fulfilled my needs.”
Instead of seeing the church as the channel to be served, why don’t we look on the church as the conduit to serve others? Here is the opportunity and the means to serve others. Here we can pool our varied talents and lend them to God and others as a service. In the church we can serve each other, and serve our communities. One of the most powerful expressions of this ideal was expressed by Francis of Assisi (1182 – 3 October 1226):
Lord make us instruments of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, unity.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is error, truth.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Where there is darkness, light.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console.
To be understood as to understand.
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born,
To eternal life.
To view the Church like this is to observe the difference between a black and white image morph into color. Seeking to “console” rather than be “consoled”? To “understand” others rather than demanding to be “understood”? To “love” rather than to “be loved”?
If we all caught this ideal, please note, we would all be loved, we would all be consoled, we would all be understood. All of our emotional and physical needs would be met by a congregation committed to serving others.
And, believed, what is more, we will make that critical spiritual growth that can only come from seeking to serve others rather than demanding to be served. The secret to being fulfilled, so simple yet so elusive, is to fulfill others’ needs.
In a word, in the church, are you a giver or a taker?