by Peter Robbins and Kevin Downing
Jesus Christ was a tremendous disappointment to almost everyone who knew and loved him at one time or another. He was a Savior who never freed God’s people from the oppressive Roman rule. Jesus was a Chosen One who began to wipe out human hunger with five loaves of bread and two fish, but who quickly gave it up. Jesus was a Christ who could have physically healed everyone if he hadn’t spent so much time with his friends in the desert. Jesus was the Coming King who was born in a feeding trough in a barn and who had a name as common as Joe. And Jesus was the Lord of heaven and earth, yet he was crucified – the most humiliating of deaths.
Jesus did not please everyone. It was not his strategy to make people happy at any cost. Jesus did, however, know his calling with razor sharp accuracy and was determined to fulfill it. Somehow Jesus could look beyond the misguided demands of people and see eternal needs.
As a result, Jesus served like no other. But he served in ways that people did not expect. As Christians we are also called to serve. But our efforts at serving others easily become distorted. Seven different misconceptions about servanthood produce great pain in our lives and the lives of others.
Misconceptions of Servanthood
Misconception #1: The depth of my servanthood is measured by how happy I make those around me. The truth is that Jesus did not make everyone around him happy. In fact, he was eventually crucified by those whom he loved. When we live for Christ the Bible tells us that we may experience persecution – even by our loved ones at times. See: Gal 1:10, Ps 55:12-14, Matt. 5:11-12; John 15:20
Misconception #2: To be a servant I must become something like a robot – brainless and uncreative – or I must do the opposite of everything I dream and desire. The truth is that Christ came that we might use all of our God-given gifts, including our mind and creativity. The more we become like Christ, the more our will and God’s will become one. We will desire God’s will and God will be a cheerleader for us. See: Psalm 20:4, 37:4, 103:5, 145:19; Ro. 8:5
Misconception #3: When I "die to the flesh," I die as a person as a punishment for my sinful nature. The truth is that dying to the ‘flesh’ or the ‘self’ does not mean to kill our bodies or our personalities – that’s suicide!!! Dying to the flesh is the choice to act out of grace rather than out of shame, hurt or revenge. Rather than punishment, dying to the flesh allows us to become the grace-full people we long to be. See: Matt. 16:24-26; Ro. 6:13, 12:1-2; I Peter 2:24, 4:10; II Tim. 1:6-7; John. 10:10
Misconception #4: Servanthood involves no risk because when we have truly given all to Christ, God takes all the responsibility for every decision. The truth is that God allows us to grapple with the gray areas of life so that we might grow spiritually and expand our wisdom and knowledge. See: James 1:2-4; I Peter 5:7; Phil.. 2:12-13
Misconception #5: There is one Perfect path for each person’s servanthood. The truth is that perfectionism has no place in Godly living. It reduces us to a crazy mechanical life far different from the life of intimate grace to which God has called us. We learn the fine points of this new life partly through trial and error. See: Phil. 3:12; Ro. 8:28; Eph. 2:8-10
Misconception #6: True Servanthood has no place for rest or recreation – there is no time to be built up when other people are hurting and need our help. The truth is that to fulfill God’s calling in our life we must be a good steward of our temple (i.e. our body). That means rest, fellowship, solitude, education – and yes, while others are hurting. Jesus often left the needy crowds to be with his friends, and his Father, in quiet places free of distraction and business. See: Matt. 11:28-29, Mk. 6:31; Heb 4:3
Misconception #7: Servanthood guarantees that others will acknowledge and appreciate our efforts and therefore take care of our needs in return. The truth is that servanthood is not giving in order to get. Great fulfillment is waiting for those who serve others, yet there are times to stop giving so we may be restored. This restoration is not selfishness – rather it is good stewardship. See: II Tim. 4:7-8; Luke 5:16; John 11:54
Recovery from people-pleasing behaviors is not easy. It requires us to identify our misconceptions about servanthood, to clarify our true calling to mutual, respectful service and to identify the unresolved pain which is at the root of our people-pleasing life styles.
Kevin Downing and Peter Robbins are therapists at Turning Point Counseling in Diamond Bar, California. Copyright 1991, used with permission.