On 20 January 1961, the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, proclaimed these now famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” At a time when America was facing geopolitical tensions i.e. the Cold War, President Kennedy made a plea to the American citizens, and a call for action, that every citizen had a duty to act for the greater good. Only with the united strength of the country could they overcome their present challenges. Divided, and they would fall.
The church today is facing spiritually challenges, as we have been for the past 2,000 years. The challenges of the 21st century may be different from the past, but we are still fighting the same enemy: Satan (1 Peter 5:8). In order for the church to succeed against Satan, every Christian needs to be united. In order to be united, Christians must be focused on a common goal: serving God through His church. The church will be strong when every Christian is working towards the same goal. However, the church will be weak if Christians are self-centered and divided, rather than God-centered and united.
1. Example of Jesus: Washing His disciples’ feet for a greater cause
Jesus taught the disciples an important lesson on humility and servitude, by showing them an example. It was a custom during those times, when guests were visiting, for the servants to wash the guests’ feet, as their feet would be filthy from their travels on the road. Feet washing was, obviously, not an enviable task to perform. However, Jesus, despite being the Master, took the initiative to bend down and wash His disciples’ feet. Through His actions, Jesus was teaching His disciples the importance of serving one another (John 13:4-15).
The church can be united when Christians serve one another, instead of expecting to be served. Whenever the disciples quarreled among themselves, Jesus reminded them that the greatest in the kingdom is the one who serves (Mark 9:33-35). When we assemble as a church, what kind of mentality do we bring with us? Do we come expecting others to serve us? Or do we come prepared to serve? For example, if we notice the church building is dirty, do we complain… or do we pick up a mop?
2. Example of Paul: Withholding salary for a greater cause
Paul is another great example of one who was prepared to serve, just as Jesus His Master did (1 Corinthians 11:1). In Paul’s work as an apostle, he often depended on the monetary support that the churches were able to provide (Philippians 4:14-16). In fact, Paul affirmed that this monetary support was his right to obtain, since ministers of the gospel deserve to receive support for their physical necessities (1 Corinthians 9:13-14). However, there were times when Paul did not exercise his right to financial support, because not every church he visited were ready to provide (1 Corinthians 9:15). In such cases, Paul had to support his own preaching work. Despite the hardships, Paul was willing to forgo his personal rights for the greater cause: the gospel.
God has given us liberty in many aspects of our life. However, sometimes we ought to forgo our personal liberties and wants, to give way to the greater cause of Christ. When we first decided to follow Jesus, the first thing we had to do was to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23). In other words, the cause of Christ becomes more important than my personal cause. Are we willing to forgo our personal rights sometimes, for the greater cause of Christ? For example, if you see a visitor walk in for our services, would you be willing to give up your favorite seat for the guest to sit?
3. Examples of good brethren at LAP: Working together for a greater cause
I count our congregation blessed, as we have good brethren who are united for the cause of Christ. We have good brethren who work behind the scenes, without seeking recognition for their services. We have good brethren who contribute towards the needs of the church without complaint. For example:
A good brother saw that our lighting needs changing, and he sponsored some of our lights. When the lights burn out, he continues to replace them at his own expense.
A good brother saw that our newly renovated premises had no greenery, and installed a new garden at his own expense
A good couple saw that our new garden needs regular upkeeping, and they come every week to do gardening, labouring with their own hands
A good sister saw that there was no coffee available during break-time, and she bought some coffee sachets for LAP, at her own expense
Good brothers (and a good sister) saw that a handicapped sister has no means of transport every Sunday, so they volunteer to drive her using the church van, at their own time and expense
The list goes on…
Just as John F. Kennedy pleaded with his nation, we plead with all Christians: Ask not what the church can do for you, but what you can do for the church. Instead of being self-centered, let us imitate our Lord Jesus, who was ready to serve others. Let us be like Paul, who was willing to forgo his personal rights for the greater cause. Let us unite with one another so that we can accomplish the greatest cause in this universe.