“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do . . .” (Eph 6:7-8, NIV2)
Can we imagine how our world would look if we followed this recommendation? How many among us serve with long faces, wishing for the weekend to come sooner rather than later? Are people blessed by such an attitude? Or do they feel we don’t care?
Imagine what would happen if we worked “wholeheartedly” for the people around us. People would want to know more about us!
This is just the first step, however. The next step is even more productive: “As if you were serving the Lord.” When all things we do are done “as if serving the Lord”, it will change our attitude. We will start to realize that it’s about genuine love, not self-interest. After all, Jesus led a life on this planet where he solely thought about others, encouraging, healing, freeing them from bondages: “Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.” (Matt 15:30-31, NIV2)
This same Jesus encourages us to do the same thing: “Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” (1 John 2:6, MSG): Love as He loves. After all, it’s all about genuine self-sacrificing love: “If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.” (1Cor 13:2, MSG)
Would we be willing to sacrifice our lives to save someone else? Jesus certainly would, and this is what motivated Lois Gunden, a French teacher from Indiana, to move to Southern France in 1941. Yes, she put herself at risk by moving to Nazi-occupied territory. She courageously established a children’s center for Spanish refugee children as well as for Jewish children, who she sneaked out of the neighboring Nazi confinement camp at Riversaltes.
Lois would visit this camp and plead with Jewish parents to let her take their children. It was a hard task to do, as who in their right mind would want to leave their children to a stranger? She had a trustworthy personality, however, and people quickly trusted her. After all, if their child would be safer with her than where they were, why not?
Lois would do anything to save these children. One morning a policeman knocked on her door, with the purpose of arresting three Jewish children. These children were not home at that time, and Lois told them they would not return until noon.
At noon, the same policeman returned and insisted on packing the possessions of these children. Lois apologized, for these children’s clothes were being washed. “You wouldn’t want to walk these children naked in the streets! Their clothes will be dried by late afternoon.” Throughout the day she kept praying for the safety of these three children, and the police officer never returned.
In 1943, she was imprisoned by the Nazis. A year later, however, she was released by a prisoner exchange. In 1958, she returned to her state of Indiana to be married. She never regretted her time in France, even though she had been in prison for more than a year. Loving these children had been her highest priority: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13, NIV2)
Jesus is our example. His love is motivating. Who else would be willing to die for an unthankful selfish crowd? He is the One who showed what true love looks like, sacrificial love that puts Father God and others above Himself: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2:3-4, NIV2)
Some among us may say: “This will never happen!” We have likely met many believers who show more selfishness than genuine love, and it would be easy to conclude that all Christians are hypocrites.
Think about it, however. Have we even been hospitalized? Were all nurses joyful and encouraging? That would be a first! To conclude that all nurses are hypocrites would be quite far-fetched, however, for whenever we are in the hospital, we meet many nurses who care genuinely.
What about teachers? There are some that are completely non-caring. There are others who are truly inspiring, a pure blessing to their students.
Anywhere we go, there are fakes as well as those who love genuinely. After all, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matt 7:16, NIV2)
Not everyone who attends church is a follower of our loving God. If they have no relationship with God and they come to church only to do their duty, most will color Christianity with hypocrisy. The crusaders were among these. They, too, were “serving God” in their own way, through killing, stealing and swearing. But is pursuing our own selfish ambitions truly serving God? These people knew nothing of our loving God, a God who “So loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV2)
We are not here to destroy, but to encourage and love, just as Jesus did. Mother Theresa is one example, but there are numerous others as well. The difference between fakes and real Christians depend on whether we have an active relationship with our Heavenly Father.
What will we do to make a difference in this world? Many are hurting. Are we willing to reach out to them?
(To access the entire “Why I am a Christian” devotional series, please click here.)