And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as He that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; That ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:24-30).
The Christian says that Jesus is his pattern. And the Bible says He should be. But too often our pattern is not Jesus. Claiming to be His disciples--because claiming you are a Christian is automatically claiming you are His disciple--somehow, copying His life drops out of our thinking. We revert to an unmindfulness, a being our less-than-fully-converted selves, and slip into unconverted modes of thought and behavior. The kingdom of God suffers.
The disciples began to wrangle over who (after Jesus) would be greatest in the new kingdom. When all should have been willing to serve in whatever capacity Jesus offered, some of them, at least, were planning their new portfolios as government officials. They were thinking ahead about how they would exercise their new authority.
How often do Christians bring with them old principles, old issues about control, right into the church! In the sanctum of unselfishness, the matrix of purity of motive, a theater from the past is played-out. Angels cringe, demons smile, fellow-travelers who know our claim to be Christians say "What is this?"
Even political methods are brought to church. Commitments made, responsibilities accepted, are laid aside in order to show we disagree with someone or something. Sometimes we forget that joining a church means living with your brethren and sisters, accepting that they may make choices with which one does not agree. It is, after all, pride that says that my opinion is so important, my opinion must take precedence, my opinion must be first, even at the cost of unity in the family of God.
Whereas liberals have trouble seeing that there are boundaries, conservatives too-frequently demonstrate incapacity in determining which issues in the church are issues of conscience and which are matters of personal preference. The unity of the church should never be sacrificed for matters of personal preference.
Jesus would say to us, stand for principle, but be willing to lay aside your personal preferences. The high and holy purpose of God's kingdom is much more important than the low and selfish purpose of exalting one's own private opinion. Jesus would say, "Repent ye, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." He wants a converted church because only a converted church can testify of the Converter.
We gather here today for communion, and remind ourselves of the teaching of Jesus. Whereas in other places, other venues, the methods of the world and of the unconverted man may see use, among you it shall not be so. Jesus said, "Ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve." Jesus set the example. He was the greatest among them. He is God! But He set the example of service. Not self-service. Not lip-service. Service. He said that He was among them as He who serves. How shall we be among this church family?
If we are echoing Jesus we will come as a servant. We will not lightly throw away the unity of the church, not lightly behave so that the cause of Christ is undermined.
Sometimes something happens in a church, and the members are left wondering what is going on, what is the big issue? Sometimes there is no big issue. Someone is manifesting stubbornness and making the church pay their price.
What a shame! What an ego!
Jesus said, "I am among you as He that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations." Your task and mine is to keep mindful that Jesus is among us as the Servant. If we refuse to forget that, if we say to Heaven, "Father, work in my heart so that self is subdued," then we will be those who continue with Jesus in His temptations. Humility goes before glory, and unselfishness before blessing, and service before honor.
Our business is not just to be individuals but to be members of the body of Christ. Our business is to copy Christ and to pray that we will not dishonor Him or His kingdom by trying to exercise lordship over our brethren in exalting our private opinions. May the Lord who suffered for His bride, His church, be honored by her. May she stand firmly in Christ with self subdued. A communion service can have little meaning if we are not actively seeking to copy our Lord, to function as He functioned as servants in the midst of the church. If we want Jesus to come, then "We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5). And if we don't want Him to come, then we are not Seventh-day Adventists. May God help His church.
Mentone CA SDA 2007-01-04