I’ve spent several Saturday nights over the past year at a friend’s home. This couple has a mutual knack for hospitality, and I’m always pleasantly awakened on Sunday morning with a made-to-order cup of hot coffee. My grandmother recently took up the same practice — without fail, there would be a mug of caffeine on my desk at 7am sharp. It didn’t even matter that the coffee was nearly cold by the time I dragged myself out of bed long past my 7:05 alarm.
I don’t mind being served a cup of coffee; it may even be my love language. But, in general, I must confess that I don’t enjoy being served. I’ve imbibed the lessons of rugged American individualism and independence — pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. To this day, I will do anything to avoid asking for help.
But several years ago, my family was in a situation where we were forced to rely on others to help us with quite literally everything — cooking, cleaning, childcare, and more. I was very grateful for the help we received, but also, resentful. I was angry at myself for not being able to do everything, frustrated at feeling like a burden, and irritated at the inherent admission that I need help. I should be able to do this myself, I thought. I’d like to say that I recognised my own hurt pride for what it was, but that took longer than it should have.
I was angry at myself for not being able to do everything, frustrated at feeling like a burden, and irritated at the inherent admission that I need help
That’s why the lines of this hymn struck me:
Brother, sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant too
Does it take grace to let ourselves “be served”? If you’re like me, it does. I don’t mean “being served” as in entitlement or letting others do all your work. I mean when you really need help, when you’re out of your depth and incapable of doing what needs to be done on your own. In this context, allowing others to serve me is an act of surrender, a giving up of control, and an admission that I need other people. I am not a rock, I am not an island. Pride gets in the way of that admission. (The recent lockdowns have made me realise how very much I rely on the services of everyone from delivery drivers to garbage collectors.)
In the context of Christian life, we are called both to serve and to be served. It’s true that Christ came as a servant, but He, too, was served. He allowed Himself to be reliant on others. As a baby, He needed His parents to survive. He needed food and shelter. Imagine the Creator of the universe, starved after a day’s journey, waiting for a frenzied Martha to finish cooking dinner.
It’s true that Christ came as a servant, but He, too, was served. He allowed Himself to be reliant on others
Of course, Christ served us. Salvation itself requires us to be “served” by Christ, to admit: I need help. I cannot save myself. The Holy Spirit ministers to us, and Jesus intercedes for us before the Father. Sunday church services are a beautiful picture of this dynamic. We are “served” and strengthened by Christ through communion, the preaching of the Word, and through fellowship with other believers. To live a steadfast Christian life, we need to receive these things before we are sent into the world.
It’s no surprise then that Christ’s church is built on mutual service. While I serve others with my own gifts, I must also allow others to serve me in areas where I am deficient. But pride, masked as self reliance, is powerful. It’s not easy to admit that I need help, whether practical, spiritual, or emotional.
I have no issues asking God for help, but I balk at asking another person. Nevertheless, I’ve found that God’s preferred method of answering prayer is through His people. My stubborn pride not only deprives me of what I need, I even deprive others of an opportunity to exercise their gifts! First, I needed to be honest about my need, ask for help, and accept it when offered.
In the words of the hymn, may we pray not just that we might serve others, but that Christ will give us the grace and humility to let them serve us too.
A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.