Upside-Down Kingdom Service

Christi Hagans
December 7, 2021

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 2:11–14

The world tells us in order to be influential we need to stand out by speaking up louder, exhibiting grandiose gestures and posting more content. But Jesus models a way of influence that chooses to sit down and speak with others, not at others. He shows gestures of kindness and care and speaks of the Father’s agenda and content more than his own. 

Jesus models a life of service, prioritizing the Father’s plans above his own, giving himself for us to be redeemed from our wickedness, purifying us, so we may be eager to do what is good. There are many ways we can “do what is good,” but one clear way is by serving others in the way Christ served.

How can we serve others in our day-to-day lives?

One way is by fighting the temptation to elevate ourselves and pursue affirmation from others. Serving others is often done when the crowds aren’t looking. Serving others requires each of us to pay attention to the needs around us and attempt to meet those needs. Serving others requires us to actually care about people, rather than care about what those people can do for us. A life of serving others is not a glamorous life. 

Diane Langberg, a Christian psychologist who works with trauma survivors, caregivers, and clergy worldwide gives a powerful reminder when we begin to value the system we work for, more than the people we are called to serve:

“When you feel overwhelmed, remember this: people are sacred, created in the image of God. Systems are not. They are only worth the people in them and the people they serve. And people are to be treated, whether one or many, the way Jesus Christ treated people.”

Diane Langeberg, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church

Sometimes our day-to-day lives are so filled with busyness we forget about those around us. We forget to consider the invisible and the very heavy burdens they may be carrying. We forget to consider the bad news they may have received. We forget to ask ourselves how Jesus would serve them. And at times, we are the ones with the heavy burdens, the ones carrying the bad news, and we may be the ones overwhelmed by life. 

What did Jesus do?

It’s likely that Jesus was overwhelmed by the brokenness and sin of life as well. Remember when Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, even though he knew he would raise him from the dead? Or when he looked over Jerusalem weeping at the brokenness and effects of sin? And despite this, Jesus continuously modeled servanthood in his relationships, so we would take up servanthood in ours:

“The Crucified is the One most traumatized. He has borne the World Trade Center. He has carried the Iraq war, the destruction in Syria, the Rwandan massacres, the AIDS crisis, the poverty of our inner cities, and the abused and trafficked children. He was wounded for the sins of those who perpetrated such horrors. He has carried the griefs and sorrows of the multitudes who have suffered the natural disasters of this world––the earthquakes, cyclones, and tsunamis. And he has borne our selfishness, our complacency, our love of success, and our pride. He has been in the darkness. He has known the loss of all things. He has been abandoned by his Father. He has been to hell. There is no part of any tragedy that he has not known or carried. He has done this so that none of us need face tragedy alone because he has been there before us and will go with us . . . and what he has done for us in Gethsemane and at Calvary he asks us to do as well. We are called to enter into relationships centered on suffering so that we might reveal in flesh and blood the nature of the Crucified One.”

Diane Langeberg, Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores

You and I certainly cannot serve others to the point that we eradicate sin and brokenness from this world, but we can serve those around us and model the love of Jesus in our daily lives. A few good questions to ask yourself at the end of each day could be, “Did I care about anyone other than myself today? Did I look into the eyes of a fellow human and empathize with what they’re experiencing? Did I consider their needs above my own and can I do anything to help meet those needs?”

If you can answer “yes” then keep doing what you’re doing. 

If you answered “no” don’t allow yourself to be impacted too much by shame, my friend, but instead consider one way you can incorporate slowing down and paying attention to those around you. This is one small way we can begin to serve and love others the way Jesus did. 

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