Monday, August 1, 2016

How Jesus Christ Models Authentic Service

Matthew 14:13-14 (NRSV): Giving Ourselves Away

Now when Jesus heard [about the death of John the Baptist], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

Being a person for others is a challenge to say the least. Serving others comes naturally  when we are in a good mood or at a place in life where service is convenient. But what about those times in our lives when we are emotionally spent, bereft of any energy and compassion? More often, humans turn in on themselves; it’s our nature. Jesus Christ, however, models authentic love of neighbor, even in the depths of his own personal suffering.

After learning about the death of John the Baptist, Jesus desires to retire to a secluded place where he can pray and commune with the Father. It is a somber time of grieving for Jesus, for he just lost a cousin and close friend. The crowds, however, learn of Jesus’ movements and follow him, seeking out his healing and desiring his presence. When Jesus arrives on shore at the “deserted place,” he notices the needy crowds. Jesus, being human, could react by asking the people to excuse him while he goes off to pray, gather his thoughts, and grieve his loss. Instead, he looks at them with “compassion” and gives himself away through “cur[ing] their sick.”

Throughout the gospels, Jesus models the perfect life of service. No matter the situation, even when Jesus grieves in loss, he offers himself to others, expecting nothing in return. The pinnacle example of this is his loving self sacrifice for each of us on the cross.

I lack much in this area, and although I try to be a good dad, husband, teacher, and neighbor, I find myself asking to be excused as I seek the comfort of solitude and personal space. Sure there are moments when I, too, have compassion and choose the path of service to others, but more often service is done with a tinge of reluctance or a feeling of obligation.

Jesus Christ reminds me, reminds us all, about the importance of giving ourselves away in love. It is a grace and something that can be a struggle most times, but through prayer and reflecting on God’s word, we can open ourselves up to God’s grace and become better versions of ourselves through imitating the loving selflessness of Jesus Christ. We, too, can emulate compassion and authenticity in offering ourselves in love to others, even when we pine for the peace of solitude.

I pray that we all choose loving compassion and service in the small corners of our lives.

May the peace and love of Christ be with you all.

Stan