The Celebration of Service

Mark 10:45
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:16
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Have you recently been well served? It could have been at a coffee shop, a restaurant, a gas station, or a grocery store. What were the characteristics of the service you received? Was it timely, friendly, or genuine? How did the server provide such exceptional service? Do you think it was easy for them? Were they just talented at service, perhaps? Have you ever experienced extremely substandard service? What might have caused the difference in service?

Over the past few months I have been reflecting on service as our calling in Christ Jesus, a paradox of the Kingdom. The very nature of servitude is that there is a subordination of the one serving to the one being served. We often think of this only in theological constructs. However, in every service-based industry found anywhere in the world, the necessity of this subordination exists. Such subordination is often accompanied by an inward struggle that those serving face against this repositioning within the social hierarchy. Time and again managers and leaders of organizations work to remind their teams that this subordination is necessary, that the needs of their clients are paramount. An organization cannot be a success without sustaining this perspective.

Subordination of what, then, is required in service? Is it time, energy, resources? It seems to me that the answer to this is “D. All of the above.” Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 20:26-27, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—“(NIV). It’s actually a repositioning of the entire identity of self that is required, a reversal of wills; mine being exchanged for His.

In the hospital in which I work, we commonly refer to putting the patient “in the center” of our thoughts as we approach complex problems that face our health system. What does this positioning of the patient “in the center” mean? It means that their needs and perspectives must be preferentially considered over the needs of others in the organization. Ultimately, doing what is best for the patient, building the best processes for the patient, will be best for the hospital in the long run. Recently, I had a conversation with a younger physician in my hospital about the inconvenience of service. He, like so many others, desired that service be easier, perhaps on a more convenient schedule.

Yet, service refuses to be convenient. It refuses to be neat and orderly. Our desire for control, importance, and power each run counter to the necessary humility which underlies service. The hindrances of self must be set aside for service to blossom, and when they are, our service can be most fruitful.  Genuine service, no matter how small or how simple it may seem, is amazingly beautiful; a brief glimpse into the very nature of the Kingdom.

1 Peter 4:10
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace, in various forms.

Steve Behnke, MD, MBA, has been a long time supporter of Word Made Flesh, having first learned about the ministry while attending Asbury University during its earliest years. He received his MD and MBA degrees at the University of Louisville and subsequently trained in Internal Medicine at Ohio State University. Presently, he leads MedOne Hospital Physicians in Columbus, Ohio and is the Chief of the Section of Internal Medicine at Riverside Methodist Hospital.

Steve lives in Columbus with his wife, Ashleigh, and their four boys.

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