Healthy Relationships - Welcome to the community of the Trinity. Chapter 13 "Relationship Service."
Mark 10:42-45, “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 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.’” Romans 12:13, “Practice hospitality.” Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers and sisters, are called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, humbly serve one another in love.”
Do you enjoy entertaining guests? My wife, Joni, loves to have friends over for dinner. She is energized by opening our home for small group or by having family/guests come and hang out with us! It is hard work, but she loves it! Others, not so much. I have a friend who used to say, “Fish and company have this in common. After a few days they start to stink.” All of us don’t share in the gift of hospitality. In this final chapter we’re going to focus on how the attitude of ‘hosting’/hospitality is a key to developing healthy and satisfying relationships.
It is vital for Christ followers to learn to ‘act as the host, not as the guest’ in our relationships. As Paul wrote, “Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13) What does that mean? What is the difference in the mindset of a ‘host’/‘guest’? To act as the ‘host’ involves giving and serving so that the ‘guest’ feels ‘at home.’ Like they are ‘welcomed’ and ‘comfortable’ (‘at home’ - as if in their own home!). To act as the ‘guest’ is to delight in being served and to respond as if you are in your own home (while remembering you are not!:)) Our relationships are strengthened and made more intimate by the spirit of ‘hosting’ (preferably on both ends!).
Let’s remember that humble service is the default mode in the kingdom of God. As Jesus explained to his disciples in Mark 10:35-45, in the non-Christian world people (particularly leaders) prefer to be served by others. That’s just the default mode. That is not the case in God’s kingdom. Those who are more developed (more mature/more spiritually advanced….like leaders) are the ones more committed to and skilled at serving God and serving others. In Christian marriage wives are called to ‘submit’ (serve/Ephesians 5:22-24/because they represent church members-followers of Jesus). But that calling is prefaced by Ephesians 5:21 which challenges all Christ followers, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That is, it’s not just wives who are called to submit. All Christians are called to serve each other in love!
When Joni and I were members of The Summit Church in Raleigh/Durham, NC their marriage teaching called for couples to begin each day by asking their spouse, ‘How can I serve you?’ When Joni and I left each worship gathering we would debrief (ask each other what we got out of the message that day). So, she asked me, ‘What did you get out of today’s message?’ I responded, ‘I heard him say that I should approach our marriage by asking, ‘How can I serve you today?’’ I turned the tables and asked her, ‘What did you get out of the message?’ She smiled and said, ‘I got the same message out of it that you did! I should approach our marriage relationship by asking, ‘How can you serve me today?!’ Such a clever girl!
The bottom-line is that we must serve our way to healthy relationships. As Galatians 5:13 challenges us, “….serve one another humbly in love.” That requires, as we have already suggested, lots of humility and unselfishness. Philippians 2:3, 4 reads, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the other.” Relationship service involves humbling self, putting others first, and lifting them up. How do you do that for your spouse, for your kids, for your friends, for the members of your church family, for your neighbors and/or for the lost (or even your enemies)? There are endless ways to serve the people around us if we will allow the Spirit of God to lead us in doing so. One of the most powerful ways to reach out (witness) to a non-Christian and share the gospel of Jesus with them. Another is to help (edify) a fellow Christian grow in the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29) by going out of your way to serve them. A note texted, a card mailed, a meal prepared, a visit at home or in the hospital, an errand run for them, a chore done to lighten their load, a word of encouragement spoken, and/or a prayer prayed over/for them! On and on the list could go! When we serve others, it breaks down barriers between us and opens their heart toward us. Relationship service is a huge key to building healthy and satisfying relationships.
I will never forget my first visit to Meadville, PA to meet my wife, Joni’s, parents. I had more hair than they were expecting. I didn’t look like the ‘minister’ they probably thought their daughter might bring home. But they were very welcoming. They were very gracious hosts. It was an enjoyable visit, if for no other reason than that I was exposed to Hank’s frozen custard! But what made it unforgettable was the Saturday morning breakfast. I slept in after a long drive the night before. As I wandered around the kitchen Joni met me and told me she thought everyone had already finished breakfast (no surprise, that was how my family did Saturday morning breakfast!). There was a plate of sausage in the oven being kept warm. So, since everyone had already eaten, and I really enjoy sausage, I ate almost all of it. You probably see where this is going, right? Joni was a little out of touch. No one had eaten breakfast. They were waiting for me to wake up. I ate almost all the sausage for breakfast (everyone’s!). I was embarrassed. Breakfast was awkward. But it was a great visit and the Willison’s were wonderful hosts! Though, I imagine Joni’s dad hoped I could hold a job, because they could never afford to feed me if I didn’t.
In your relationships, be the host not the guest. Make others feel at home around you. Serve the people God has placed in your life humbly, gladly, and lovingly. In small and large ways practice relationship service. Then watch as God blesses you with healthy and satisfying relationships. You will be full!