The bond servant chose to stay with his master because he loved him. He wanted to express his love continually through his service because service is the full extent of love. When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He was “show[ing] them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1 NIV).
The servant’s service to the master was often manifested in service to the master’s family. Bond servants only stayed if they loved not only the master but his family as well (Deut. 15:16).
Servants would provide care for the master’s children and protect the family. Perhaps they would help the kids get ready for school in the morning, assist them with their homework, and check the security of the home each night. Perhaps the bond servant would play games with the family each evening, pray with the family, and celebrate holidays with the family.
While God desires for you to serve the world around you, the Master also asks you to serve His family. And the church is God’s family. By “church,” I mean God’s people, not a building, denomination, creed, confession, or organization. The church is the gathering of the Master’s family in specific locations all around the world.
Wait a second! What just happened?
Am I actually suggesting that we invest our time serving the church? Do I have the audacity to equate serving the church with serving Christ?
You may be saying, “I want to serve Christ but not the church. I love Jesus but not the church.” If so, I understand. I once felt the same way.
Early in my faith, and even early in ministry, I was cynical and frustrated with the church. I remember visiting a church with some friends just to bash their newly renovated church sanctuary. When we saw the expensive chandeliers and opulent decorations, we talked negatively about the church over lunch. They could build a church in the Yucatan for every one of those chandeliers.
I remember being scolded by a gaudily dressed woman with bad breath at a church because I painted the youth room for the teenagers. She informed me that the building and grounds committee was upset because I corrupted their beautiful white walls. I complained that if church people’s greatest mission was to keep their walls clean, then they missed the entire point of the gospel.
When I started preaching, I viewed every sermon as an opportunity to unload on church people for being unloving to the lost world around them. I was convinced that I could be deeply committed to Christ but adamantly frustrated and opposed to church.
Then I got married.
God used my marriage to change my heart. Not only because Kaye seasoned me with some mercy and compassion but also because I began to understand the relationship between a husband and a wife.
God calls the church His bride.
God chooses the image of marriage to describe His love for the church. I realized that loving Jesus but not His church would be like someone coming to me and saying, “I like you, but I cannot stand your wife.” Insisting the church was ridiculous and not worthy of my service would be like someone ridiculing my wife and expecting me to be OK with it.
I am not saying the church is perfect. I know my church is not perfect because I am a part of it. However, I am saying that the church is the bride of Christ, that the church is the family of the Master. And the Master asks us to serve His family.
God has given you a spiritual gift, and one of the reasons for your gifting is so that God’s family will benefit from your contribution. The family suffers if you choose not to serve. The family suffers if you forget you are a marked servant.
Adapted from Identity (2008, B&H Publishing Group)