So, today in worship, Pastor Tim said some things that got me thinking about our identity as Christians. Obviously, as Christians Jesus is part of our identity. And as Pastor Tim pointed out, Jesus came to serve. Think about it! Even in death, Jesus continued to serve the world. And we know the early church grew through relationships and service to one another. So naturally, service should be what we members of the kingdom are all about!
But, part of our Christian identity and service also has to do with culture. It's like a spectrum; on one end is culture and the other is Christ. Pastor Tim pointed out that Christianity calls us to be almost opposite of culture. In today's culture it is not second nature to serve! We get caught up in our busy schedules, being with our families, or hanging out with our friends ... it becomes all about ME!
I had such an experience this week-end! I had a "shopping date" with one of my friends. She was going to help me make curtains for my freshly painted bedroom and she was also looking for some fabric to go in her guest bedroom. First thing when we met, Eleanore let me know that another friend of hers may interupt our time together via a phone call. She went on to explain that this friend has been unemployeed for the past three years; and recently she lost her car because she could not afford the payments and repairs. This friend had called earlier and asked to borrow Eleanore's car so she could run some errands. Eleanore was not comfortable with that but did feel "obligated" to take her friend to do the errands. However, this was Eleanore's day off of work and she had planned to spend it shopping, having a birthday dinner celebration with her mom, and then was having some friends over later in the evening.
I have to admit it, I secretly hoped that this person would not call and interupt MY shopping trip with Eleanore. I had planned for us to shop and then take Blaine to Chick-Fil-A for some lunch and playground time; while Blaine played on the playground, we could chat away! However, about an hour or two into our shopping time, the friend did call and Eleanore literally had to cut our time short so that she could pick up her friend, run the errands, and then make it to her mom's birthday dinner (only a few hours away). I was disappointed but understood Eleanore's desire to help her friend. Eleanore has a big heart and I have always admired her ability and desire to serve others (i.e. teaching children's Sunday school, working with the youth at her church, her committment to her friends, etc.).
Later that day when I talked to Eleanore, I asked how the errands went. Eleanore explained that it took much longer than she had time for but that they got them all done. But the thing that struck me most was that Eleanore was beating herself up because she didn't go into the opportunity to serve her friend with an open heart. She might as well just not have gone at all because of her attitude. In other words, she felt worse for going with a bad attitude than if she hadn't served her friend at all.
Pastor Tim talked this morning about Israel and how they lost the vision of service and it became about power. Clearly, I lost the vision of allowing another to serve and it became about material things (the shopping trip) for me. But my friend, Eleanore, (despite her self proclaimed bad attitude) never forgot that her identity as a Christian calls her to serve others above self. Despite having and wanting to do other things on her day off, she still went and helped a friend. I am so proud to know Eleanore and I am convinced that her going to help her friend could have made a profound difference in that person's life. It could even mean the difference of employment vs. unemployment for this person. Perhaps if I continue to surrond myself with Christian friends like Eleanore, these attitudes and examples will begin to rub off on me! Though the curtains did turn out nicely, maybe one day it will be second nature for me to serve others first or not get upset when the opportunity to serve another presents itself (even if it is in the middle of MY shopping trip) ...