If you have ever had the chance to ride first class on an international flight, you have known one of the most service-oriented times of your life. I had the chance to ride first class (not at my own expense) and the service that was provided was second to none. I was told that the measurable difference between the main cabin and first would be significant, but I had no idea. It felt great to be served during that flight. It felt great to have someone doting on me for anything I might want. And it really felt great to be able to lie down totally flat during a long plane ride. To the crew that served, it was part of their job and I genuinely believed that they enjoyed doing their job—they enjoyed serving folks.
That joy, however, does not often translate into areas of our life where we are not being paid to make someone happy. Often, when we are asked to serve (whether it be in our church or to serve another person directly) our hearts get in the way. We simply do not enjoy serving and we have to tell ourselves all sorts of truths in order to do what we believe God is calling us to do. But even further beyond that, in terms of challenges, is when we are called to serve and it will actually cost us something. It is one thing to be asked to serve in Children’s Ministries when you are already at church and it will only take an hour out of your day…it is quite different when serving will cost you much more than an hour of your time. But, in order to be a good friend, in order to have a great friendship, you will need to have sacrificial service.
The Reasons are Obvious
It is no great secret of the heart why we struggle to serve when it will cost us something. Who wants to give up something for someone else? Our flesh tells us that the most important thing in life is to take care of me—look out for me first! I can’t give up what I have for you, because if I do, what might happen to me? The fear of caring for ourselves is so great that it often prevents us from giving love to others. But holding on to the love and care for self is sort of like holding on to a porcupine—all you are going to get is lots of painful little cuts and no reward.
The Call to Sacrifice is Core to Christianity
Christ tell us that there is no greater love than to sacrifice for our friends (John 15:13). In the upper room, Christ was not only calling his apostles his friends but reminding them that there is no greater love than to sacrifice for the one you love, and He would do that by laying down His life. Christ did this, as we are told in Hebrews 12:2, because it was His “joy” to do so. Christ knew that by sacrificing Himself for His friends, He would find true joy—and He called His followers to do that same. Before the cross, He had told his followers that they would need to die to themselves and follow Him (Matt. 10:38-39) and that, by doing so, they will find what it is they are looking for.
Relating Sacrifice to Friends
While most of us will not have the opportunity (and I use this word intentionally) to lay down our lives for our friends in the very real sense of the word, we will have many opportunities to lay down our lives on a regular basis. Sacrifice for our friends will be something that we have the chance to do on a regular basis if we keep our eyes open. It might be something as physically demanding as helping them pack up their house and move, and it might be something as time consuming as putting your life on hold and taking a few hours to talk about some deep water that they are going through. The point is, if you are in relationship with someone, you will have plenty of chances to die to yourself so that someone else might live. And by dying to yourself, you will then truly find life!
What to do?
That does not mean that I am calling for you to seek to invent ways to serve and sacrifice for your friends so that you can get joy. Manufacturing problems so that you can serve will only cause you even more problems. So then, what are some things you can do?
First, you can keep your word—even if it hurts. This may not sound like it fits with what we have been talking about, but so many times one of the most meaningful ways you can sacrifice is by keeping your word. Our society has lost the value of keeping your word if it hurts you. We only seem to think that we need to keep our word if it works out well for us. Think back on how many times you have cancelled or changed plans on someone because something in your life went bad. Perhaps you told someone that you would be there to get lunch during a hard time, but then you felt overwhelmed by work. Maybe you said you would show up to serve, but then wanted to do something else. Regardless, you put yourself and your desires before another. Psalm 15:4 reminds us that this type of living will only bring pain to everyone involved.
Second, you should ask yourself, “what will happen to this person if I say ‘No’?” By not placing yourself first in situations, by placing others before yourself, you will manifest friendship that is powerful and enjoyable. So often, when considering a request to do something, we think first and foremost about what the impact to ‘me’ will be. How will this affect me? Rather, Christians should ask the question ‘what will happen to my brother if I do not say yes’? ‘How negatively will he be impacted if I say no?’ We must show the love that we see in the story of the Good Samaritan to our friends.
To be sure, there are many other ways that we can show sacrificial service to those that God has placed us in relationship with—these are just two ways. But when we do show sacrificial service, when we manifest the love that we were called to show to others, we will have great friendships and great joy!