A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on October 14, 2018, called “Called to Service.” The sermon is the fifth in a series exploring our church vision and mission statements.
Here is a written excerpt from the introduction:
This morning we’re continuing to reflect on our church vision and mission statements. We’re “on a journey with Jesus,” walking with Jesus, following Jesus. And this journey with Jesus is bringing us to a destination: to greater peace, to greater witness, and—today’s focus—to greater service.
Jesus calls us to serve one another in love. In other words, let’s all just be a little more helpful to each other, alright? Amen, sermon done.
Not so fast! Yes, it’s true that we need to help each other out as needed. But when we make Jesus’ call to “service” about merely helping each other out every once in a while, we’re missing a deeper, and more significant reality.
Because here’s an uncomfortable reality we need to wrestle with: the New Testament language of “serving” is actually the language of “slavery.”
When Jesus calls us to be a “servant of all” in Mark 10:44, for example, or when Paul calls us “serve one another in love” in Galatians 5:13, they are using the language of slavery. Mark 10:44 is literally “Whoever wishes to be first among you must be the slave of all.” Galatians 5:13 is literally “Through love become slaves to one another.”
I don’t know about you, but “be slaves to one another” seems a lot more demanding than simply “be helpful.” It also makes it much harder to swallow—and more than a little unsettling.
“Be slaves” to one another? That’s got to be just a metaphor, right? Well, maybe it is a metaphor, but in a world filled with real-live slaves owned by real-live masters, as the New Testament world was, this is not “just a metaphor.” It’s a vivid and powerful reality.
So for us to understand what it means to “live out Jesus’ command to serve,” we need to talk about slavery. Buckle your seatbelts—this could get a little bumpy.