Though I'm as lazy as the next gal, I'm also convinced that Jesus invites his followers into something so much better than being off the hook. Specifically, he hooks us into adventure by opening our eyes to opportunities to serve in our neighborhoods, workplaces, campuses, and communities. Through the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit, our eyes are opened to the teen at church who doesn't have any help at home as he applies to colleges. When our postal carrier delivers the wrong mail, we're reminded of the neighbor who's been living in a nursing home for the last six months. Or we hear from coworkers about a colleague who'll be out of work caring for a sick husband. The Spirit opens our eyes to the folks Jesus is longing to meet, love, and serve—through us. Jesus invites us to embrace a life of adventurous kingdom service that is marked by surprise, smallness, sacrifice, and spontaneity.
Who Are We to Serve?
I confess that when I think of service, too often my mind beelines to my worst nightmare: Martha-Stewart-style hospitality. Ick! Yuck! Blech!
When Jesus invites us to serve, though, he's not necessarily thinking of hosting folks like our pastors or wealthy neighbor or the head of the church missions committee who—if we're really lucky and play our cards right—can return the favor. In fact, the ones he describes and moves toward are most often lacking in any sort of social capital whatsoever.
In a story Jesus tells about who we're to be serving, he describes folks who are hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, imprisoned and often unknown to us—aka "strangers" (Matthew 25:35-45). Jesus says that when we serve those who are living on the world's margins, we're actually serving him: "The King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'" (Matthew 25:40). As we begin to recognize the face of Jesus in those we serve, the "stranger" is transformed into "friend" as he opens our eyes to see those folks we'd likely otherwise miss.
Nudged by the Spirit, we may notice, for the first time, the thirsty gardener who tends to the lawn on the campus of our workplace. Or when we go Christmas caroling at a local nursing home we might see, as if for the first time, those who are captive to debilitating circumstance. Or the Spirit opens our eyes to the young woman with an intellectual disability who bags our groceries every week, now waiting in the rain for a bus. The surprise of kingdom service is that God opens our eyes so that we notice folks in the daily rhythm of our lives that we've just never seen before.
Margot Starbuck, award-winning writer and speaker, is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary. A TCW regular contributor and columnist, Margot speaks regularly on discipleship, justice, and living love in the world God loves. Connect with Margot on Facebook, Twitter, or at MargotStarbuck.com.