Dr. M.L.King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
I love this. It is simple and undeniably true. A child can serve. A senile old man can serve. A woman in labor can serve. A king can serve. A slave can serve.
N.B. Also… anyone can “serve” without love and without grace. They can “get things done.” But what are the things they do, and are they good?
I know a young fellow who has done service for his country, and does service for his church family. His service is noted, and repaid in kind with material recompense and/or thank-you’s. But:
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians: 13:1
At their family Christmas party this year this fellow and his brother nearly came to physical blows because the young man of whom I speak was loudly preaching that he was “shunning” his brother because his brother was not behaving “the way a Christian should.” He was using the Bible to justify rejecting fellowship with a person because he would not repent of some sin.
If you look at this scripture you will find that there is a lot of specific context to it that has to do with serious issues. It does not have to do with petty quarrels or theological differences. Here is a link to a sermon on this subject that pretty much spells out the “support” for shunning. It is pretty close to the Old Testament injunction about “if your hand offends you, cut it off.” This is strong medicine for petty quarrels, surely. We would all be running around the world with no hands! Or not running around anymore — having been burned at the stake!
In my opinion, it would not be possible to conduct such a shunning if both parties were on their knees scrubbing the latrine floor. This is where we really begin — and it is not easy to find one’s way there again once the three bugaboos creep in : i.e., “Lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, pride of life…” 1 John 2:15,16.
Well, it happens to all of us all the time. And it is so easy to shoot off our mouths. Like that preachy brother. Especially if we are suffering from one of those prides or lusts mentioned above.
I was shunned once–by the same person who (and I am grateful beyond words) introduced me to the concept of a personal relationship with God! And she continued to use that shunning scripture to shun those she thought were walking in sin and needed to be disciplined by the church (herself.) I pray for her still. Without “shunning her back” (which was a temptation) I have redirected my path so it doesn’t often cross hers. I have news now and again of her complicated life. She still, now and then, tries to manage God’s business. It is a prideful thing to think a mortal can manage God’s business. It is not a fruitful use of one’s time and gifts.
That’s what I think.
May I learn to serve! May I get on my knees and clean the latrine more often, to remember. May I not shoot off my mouth. May I put up a note on my computer about those prides and lusts that lurk around to grab us.
And may I, please God, do something in grace and love for others, some time, somewhere, soon. Often.
Happy Birthday, MLK, Jr. You knew about this stuff because, clearly, you lived it!