Whoever wants to become great must be your servant

Jesus, knowing their thoughts, called them to his side and said, “Kings and those with great authority in this world rule oppressively over their subjects, like tyrants. But this is not your calling. You will lead by a completely different model. The greatest one among you will live as the one who is called to serve others, because the greatest honour and authority is reserved for the one with the heart of a servant. For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone, and to give his life in exchange for the salvation of many. Matthew 20:25-28 (TPT)

I have been thinking a lot lately about what makes Christians different to followers of other religions. Most religions have values based on love, care and compassion for others, so what makes Christians different. I came to the conclusion that, putting aside all the doctrinal differences between different religions, what makes Christianity stand out is of course Jesus, his identity, his life, what he stood for whilst he walked this earth and by association, our identity, as his followers, in him.

And arguably his most significant act whilst on this earth was his death on the cross for the redemption of the sins of ALL mankind. An ultimate act of sacrifice that has no match in any other human being or God.

That act of sacrifice was an act of obedience to His Father and of love and service to us. It is an act that we, as Christians, are all called to replicate, even today.

  • Now we may not be called to die on a cross, although some Christians still do in some parts of the world, but we are called to sacrifice our own comfort and our own freedom for others.
  • We are called to serve one another which too often we translate as serving our brothers and sisters in Christ, forgetting to extend this act of service to those who do not yet know Him, those who attack us, who ridicule us and who despise us.
  • We are called to forgive, even the unforgivable and to offer grace and mercy to those who hurt us.
  • We are called to include ALL in our prayers and act of love and compassion, even those who are different to us in what they look like, what they believe and what they do.

Nelson Mandela famously wrote whilst in prison: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” 

As Christians, we have a responsibility to ensure that the freedom we have been given by Jesus when he died for us, is made available to all, whether they know Christ or not.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

See also

A church united in its mission

1 Corinthians 1:10 “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

Our problem as Christians is that too often we promote what we are against instead of what we stand for. We fight about doctrine and what separates us rather than focussing on our mission and what unites us. This not only impacts our own walk with Christ but hinders our ability to attract people to Christ and his Church.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said “I’d be a Christian if it were not for the Christians.” And there is a good reason why he did. Intrigued by the teachings of the bible and the sermon of the mount in particular, Gandhi decided one Sunday morning to visit a Christian church in Calcutta but was stopped at the door by the ushers who told him that, as this was a church for high caste Indians and whites only, he would not be allowed in. This rejection caused Gandhi’s total rejection of Christianity. Now imagine what could have happened in Hindu India and elsewhere in the world if a man like Mahatma Gandhi had become a Christian?

We MUST remember what our mission is as is so clearly defined in the Bible:

  • Our mission as Christians is to be inclusive not exclusive: 1 Corinthians 12:12:-14 “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
  • Our mission is to love our neighbours like ourselves not to despise someone for who they are, what they do or what they believe. Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (see more)
  • Our mission is to spread the gospel around the world, Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
  • Our mission is to protect the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised, all those who are different and need help. Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (see more)

We only have one enemy and that’s the devil. If you want to fight, then fight him. Let’s unite in our battle against our common enemy, who revels in and stokes our infighting and jealousy. Let’s stop playing his game and stand for who we ALL are in Christ, sons and daughters of the one true King and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.

Look after orphans and widows in their distress

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Nine years ago, when my family and I first moved to France we went through a very traumatic time. I can honestly say that it felt like just about everything was going wrong. We hit one disaster after another which affected our family life, our living conditions, our finances and health very deeply. I must admit that I struggled with my faith in those days and in believing that God was good and loved me. But on one of my daily lament to God, I heard this very clear voice in my head telling me: “I have given you everything you wanted, you asked for a husband, I gave you a husband, you wanted a family, I gave you children, you wanted to move to France, you now live in France, now it is my turn”.

I have spent most of my life since that day trying to work out what “my turn” meant, but I still struggle almost everyday to remember that my salvation was not just about me, it was about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Church, the lost, the disenfranchised, the needy, the sick, the weak and the defenceless.

The events of the last few weeks in the United States of America, the senseless murder of Georges Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many others before them has forced me once again to face my failings in putting God and others before my own concerns and comfort.

I have had to examine my own heart and my own prejudices. I had to speak to my children to make sure that the next generation does better than we have. I have read countless comments on social media condemning the protesters for trying to make white people feel guilty for their privilege. I have heard many Christians declaring that we shouldn’t talk about race in Church and criticising their pastors if they did raise their voices against racism and prejudice during their sermons.

And it got me thinking: so much of what we hear in Church is about us as individuals. It’s about making us feel and live better lives. It’s about overcoming our own pain, discomfort, guilt and shortcomings. I am not belittling the importance of that message, however, if we never go beyond simply focussing on ourselves, we cannot grow as Christians.

A grownup Christian looks after widows and orphans, as James 1:27 tells us:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

As Christians we must be at the forefront of the battle against prejudice and injustice. We must be seen and heard crying for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their gender, the colour of their skin, their nationality, their religion or denomination, their disability, their socio-economic background, or sexual orientation. We have been commissioned by God to do so and we must make this a Church priority. This is how we will be spreading the message of God’s love to the world (see also this blog post).

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 

You cannot love and discriminate at the same time. We must show love to all. Why is it so much more prevalent in church to forgive a murderer than to accept a gay man for who he is?

In Galatians 3:28, it is written: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are all created equal, image bearers of God and it is about time this becomes a reality in all Christian churches.

We cannot continue to stay within the comfort of our little group of Christian friends, talking about comfortable issues that make us feel better about ourselves. We must examine our own guilt in fostering and maintaining prejudice and injustice in the world, repent and recognise the equal rights of ALL the children of God without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.