The topic I was prompted to talk about this week was a question. The question is, “why do believers volunteer and serve others rather than join God’s people around the table?” Before I begin, the kind of funny thing about this is I’ve had a certain phrase bouncing around in my head for about a month now and I couldn’t find a home for what it applies to until today. That phrase is, “Either/or or both/and.”
Now, how does that apply? Well let’s talk it through a little bit. Let’s first address the question: Why do believers volunteer and serve others rather than join God’s people around the table? Let’s word it a little differently to get a different picture, but using the same sentiment. Why do believers volunteer and serve others, but don’t join God’s people around the table? That separates the sentence into 2 actions a little further allowing us to really see the question.
It makes you feel a little defensive does it not? Like you’re suddenly defending volunteering and serving. Suddenly you’re ranking the two actions. Which one is more important? What’s that verse again? I’m pretty sure I learned this last week, what did they say about serving others?
How do we rank them? That’s a good question and the question I have in response is, should we rank them?
We live in a world of either/or. Just scroll through the trending page of Twitter or read comments on YouTube. Turn on the news or listen to a podcast. People are either outraged or they are in support of something. You are either this or you are that. If you don’t support this then it’s obvious you support that. We took a multiple choice test and turned it into a True or False test. We took the 4, 5, or 6 options and reduced it down to 2 and of those 2, one is inherently right and the other is inherently wrong. We took the grey areas out of life and forced it into black or white. We took the trivial and made it of utmost importance. We took the idea of choice and made it a weapon. It’s now a club for smashing, a bar for leveraging, a bed of hot coals for torturing, or a noose for ending someone’s life as they once knew it.
People are pendulous by nature. We tend to over-correct or over-steer, and like a pendulum, swing from one extreme to the other in our bid for control over our environment. In our bid for control for others around us, in our bid for control over ourselves. We want to be liked, heard, and do jobs well. We want to be funny and known as someone dependable. We want to be someone else’s favorite. So we swing to what we think we are supposed to do, find out that’s not it, then swing the other way. And back and forth we go, extreme to extreme until we are lost in the lack of control, forgetting what it was we were going for in the beginning of it all.
We forgot the question, or mission. Eventually we’ll wear ourselves down, unable to move forward; we’re burnt out and bitter. We feel like our backs are against the wall every where we turn. Where am I? Who are these people? What am I doing with my life? We spent so much time trying to do the right thing we didn’t stop to ask if it was the right thing. We let ourselves be told what it was instead of knowing what it was.
Now that we’re thoroughly worked up and thinking about our life choices and examining our feelings, let’s revisit the original question. Why do believers volunteer and serve others rather than join God’s people around the table?
What are the options? Is it either/or? Should it be either/or, or are we just not seeing the other options? Are we just taking the question and spitting out the answer you feel expected to give or doing what you feel you’re expected to do? Sometimes in our efforts to do what is right we do what is expected instead. We find ourselves picking either/or. But sometimes those line up and they run parallel to each other. We find ourselves sitting in a both/and scenario instead of either/or.
With that in mind let’s look through the question with this new lens. Both sides are good, and in this scenario both are equally important. We are called to serve and we are also called to live in community with each other as brothers and sisters. To form bonds and relationships and through those bonds our serving together is also strengthened. One side of the question fuels the other and creates a loop and that loop turns into a cycle.
So, my life application moment for today is this, if you feel one side of that question is more important than the other, lean into the other and build it up to where it flows over into the other. Do both/and. Let serving others be a reason to gather around the table with God’s people and let gathering around the table with God’s people fuel your desire to serve others. We often talk about how often Jesus served others and we preach about having a servant’s heart, then we talk about how often people served Jesus and we again preach about a servant’s heart. Both are good, but there is an “and.” Did Jesus ever stop anyone from serving him? He let them and he celebrated them for it. By allowing them to serve a servant He taught that its more than just the serving that matters, but the heart behind the serving. He knew where their heart was and He celebrated it. He was both the server and the served.
It was never about the action, it is always about the heart, but we are often stubborn minded, so He teaches through actions to reveal the heart. Parables are mainly told through a story of action. Some action is taking place and through that we can interpret the heart condition through the mirror it places before us. A good heart will guide us towards what action or decision should be made. If We find ourselves unsure, we have found a good starting place to begin working on. A good heart will guide the mind and a wise mind will temper the heart.
When presented with a choice or question look at all of the options besides just the ones you are presented with. Why do you think Jesus taught in parables? He wanted us to think critically about what was being presented before us, and we should think critically about everything else also. Do not succumb to what is expected, but look for what is right. Sometimes it is either/or sometimes it is both/and and then sometimes it is no. Think critically of all of your choices for there are often more than just what is presented.
If you find yourself lost and unsure, reach out to others more experienced or people you think may be more wise and mature that can help you navigate. One thing I’ve recently learned is that God loves it when you reach out directly to Him and give Him the opportunity to interact personally and directly with you. You’re His child and He is your Father and He wants that active relationship with you. Make sure that you find ways to intentionally listen for His responses. But that, my friends, is a topic for another day.