The Vow of Service

Motivated by Love. When the Lord Jesus Christ saw the multitude coming to Him or when He saw the Widow of Nain, the Bible says that He was “moved with compassion” (cf. Matt.9:36, 14:14; Mk. 6:34; Lk. 7:13).

This indicates that the motivation for service is love. Therefore, what motivates us to serve people is to love them. Without this love, we will not be able to serve them. And love always means sacrifice. The Lord sacrificed Himself. Therefore, every servant should be motivated by sacrificial love.

Dynamic Mission. “[Jesus] went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). This is dynamic service. He did not stay in one place and have the people come to Him. But, He went to the people. Therefore, the service must always be dynamic.

Inclusive Mission. “For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him” (Mk. 3:10), implying that His service included everyone. The Lord Jesus Christ did not limit Himself to a certain group of people in His service but as I mentioned here, He healed many so that as many as had affliction were healed. Anyone who had affliction went to Christ, and Christ healed him.

Comprehensive Mission. “Healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matt. 4:23). Our Lord had a comprehensive service. It included everything. This is why the priest in the Coptic Church is called Abouna (‘our father’). People come to seek advice about various subjects spiritual problems, economic problems, social problems, or legal problems. When we serve people, we serve them as a whole and assume the responsibility to help them in whatever they may need. The Lord also took the same responsibility by healing both the body and spirit, as He did for the Paralytic Man whose story we read on the Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast.

Mission with the People. “Then He came and touched the open coffin” (Lk. 7:14). When Christ raised the Son of the Widow of Nain, He touched the coffin to demonstrate His solidarity with the people. The Old Testament forbade touching a coffin, otherwise one was considered unclean (cf. Num. 19:11). But the Lord touched the coffin to demonstrate that He came to be with us Emmanuel among us. He took our human nature. So always in service, one has to be close to the people, to be among them.

People over Regulations. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27). This means that in the service, people are given priority over regulations. The Lord states this to emphasize that any regulation is implemented for the well-being of the people, not to enslave them. The same applies when we speak about the rites of the Church, for the rites were implemented for the people, and not the people for the rites. Sometimes, one focuses on certain rubrics that the people may not be able to bear. Take the hymns, for example. It is good that we know how to say the hymns in the Church and that we say all the hymns. But it is better if the people participate. They shouldn’t feel that hymns are a burden for them.

Participation of the People in the Service. In the raising of Lazarus, our Lord asked the people to “Take away the stone” ( Jn. 11:38). This command signified the importance of the participation of the people in the service. The Lord could have raised Lazarus without taking away the stone, but He desired to have the people participate. Sometimes in our love for the service, we become like a father who wants to do everything for his son, without giving him any responsibility. But this always ends in failure. To avoid this situation in the service, the people should participate. For example, an individual person has to show that he is willing to participate, not that we are forcing something on him. In Luke 15, where the Lord mentions the three parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the Prodigal Son, He outlines three categories of sinners.

The first kind are those people who are lost because of us that is, the woman who lost one of her ten coins out of her negligence. She went to search for it, because she could not expect this coin to return on its own. Due to her responsibility, she went and searched for it. Therefore, people of this type are lost because they are offended by us, and they cannot return without our intervention and work towards reconciliation.

This is our responsibility towards them.

The second group of people are lost due to their own ignorance. This sheep does not realize that it is straying away from the other sheep and will be lost. Thus, the shepherd has a responsibility toward the sheep to search for it. We always bear this responsibility with those who are in ignorance. Perhaps, when they know, they will change.

The third group is that of the Prodigal Son, who knowingly and intentionally left his father’s house. His father did not go and search for him because the son left of his own prerogative. But when the son took the first step to return, his father took many steps towards him. He didn’t wait until he returns, but when he saw him coming, he ran to him. Definitely, the father tries to convince his son that his understanding of freedom is inaccurate and improper. But he refused to listen. Similarly, we often find people who refuse to listen to reason, and the more we discuss with them, the more stubborn and obstinate they become. Sometimes when you insist, they become obdurate. While, with others, it may succeed. These situations need prayer. We should stop, leave him for a while, and pray for him because without change in his heart, he will never return. Had the Prodigal Son not experienced slavery, to the extent that he compared himself to the swine who were free to eat, he would not have realized that his freedom was actually slavery. He would have remained unyielding, and would not have changed.

Spiritual Goal. The Lord said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (Jn. 6:27). This exhortation implies the necessity of always having the spiritual goal in mind. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6 :33). Whatever activities we do in the service, we have to be very clear about the goal our spiritual goal. For example, the Gospel of the Sixth Sunday of the Great Fast is about the Man Born Blind from John 9. The Lord did not only heal this man’s eyes but also granted him enlightenment. Thus we call it the Sunday of Baptism.

Bowing Down. When the Lord Jesus Christ washed the feet of His disciples, He told them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” ( Jn. 13:14). But why their feet? The washing of the feet cannot be done from above, while standing. In order to wash someone’s feet, you must descend below to reach the feet. If you remain standing, you will never be able to wash.We cannot serve the others if we are not willing to bow down to their needs, to their limitations, to their weakness. To serve them, we must forgive and forget. We must bear with their weaknesses and limitations. In doing so, we express our love for God to love one another.Taken from the book “On Eagle Wings”