Some unstructured reflections on a couple of verses that have been stuck in my mind lately…
1 Peter 4:10-11
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
It seems like far too often we take the direction and words of Scripture, then try to apply them in a way that ends with a very self-centered view of those words or commands. Rather than considering our gifts an unwarranted gift from God, we often attempt to use them as a way to fashion ourselves in some “self-made” image of a successful and fulfilling life. Instead of recognizing that the various gifts and talents with which we are imparted are a manner by which we may serve others, we manipulate them into a way to serve ourselves.
We’ve become very good as Christians at serving ourselves in a way that appears to serve others. (IE: If our talent is music we don’t tend to use it to serve others, we try to market ourselves and build wealth for ourselves… but we sprinkle in our faith and pretend that using the glorification of God for selfish purposes somehow makes it acceptable.)
If we are to be “faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”… that means the amount of grace that people experience is directly associated with your willingness to serve them. Grace is not solely a spiritual concept, God extends His unmerited favor through the actions of his people. He trusts the enacting of various forms of his grace to those who live for him.
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.”
How do we speak to each other… ABOUT each other? If we believe that we are filled with the Holy Spirit and our words have power… how are we wielding that power? Are we using words to tear people down behind their backs… to their face? Are we believing what scripture says and using words to bring life… or just pretending like they don’t matter? This is built directly on the previous quote, because you can’t serve someone, if you’re doing so grudgingly.
If you serve someone in the best possible way, but don’t act out of love… then I don’t think God cares that you did it. He may use you for that person’s sake, but there’s no “well done” as a result. Conversely, I think that serving someone inadequately, but truly making every effort out of love is looked at by God as a great act.
God has great compassion for an admitted sinner chasing Him, but little patience for a claimed saint ignoring Him.
“If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides…”
This removes every excuse for “not feeling like” serving another person. It’s not about you, it’s about God reaching another person through you. It doesn’t matter if you feel like doing what God asks you to do… He asks you to serve (remember that whole “it’s not about you” thing?) Serving with the strength God provides negates the “I’m tired” or “I’m too busy” or “it’s not my area of strength” excuse… of course it’s not your strength… it’s God’s. Serving God and others is not a job you get to clock out of at the end of the day, it’s constant… and not just limited to the people you like.
Actually, most references of serving others in scripture direct us to serve the people groups who would be left out, forgotten, or looked down upon by society. It’s easy to serve family and friends, we get something in return… but God calls us to serve those whom others forget.
“…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
When we serve in the way these two verses describe, it is selfless and brings glory to God… not ourselves. The moment we claim credit or attention for an act of service, we’ve taken it from God. We can lead in loving and serving others in a way that is public… without turning it into a publicity stunt. Mindlessly broadcasting the people we serve disregards the feelings of the person and only results in collecting glory for ourself… not God.
1 Peter 4:10-11 illustrates the empowerment God gives us in order to accomplish what Jesus reinforced as being one of the two greatest commands “love others as yourself,” which is really how we accomplish what is called the greatest command “love God with your entire being.” Serving others in a selfless manner is at the core of the message of Christ. When we serve in a way that is self-promoting, we elevate ourselves above God.
If we call ourselves “Christian,” then we completely erase the right to choose whether or not to serve; it is a command we are given.