"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Week 11: Serve One Another, Part 1

"Serve one another in love." ~ Galatians 5:13b

Ten weeks down, thirty weeks to go. Last week, I focused on the command to "encourage one another." This week, I'm focusing on the command to "serve one another in love." Tonight, the "in love" part of the command is on my mind. Indeed, all of these "one another" commands merely show us the way to fulfill the greater command to "love one another." So, what does it mean to serve one another in love? Anybody remember the DC Talk song, "Luv is a Verb?"

Hey, I think it's time ya learned
I don't care what they say
I don't care what ya heard
The word luv, luv is a verb
Down with the dc Talk, d- d- down with the dc Talk

Etcetera. Etcetera. Despite the bad grammar and the inexcusably bad spelling, they had a point. It's action that proves our love. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15. On the other hand, God doesn't just command our actions. He also commands every part of our lives and every part of us, including our thoughts and our feelings. For example, Jesus commands us to rejoice (Matt 5:12), to fear God (Luke 12:5), to not feel shame about Him (Matt 10:33), and to forgive from the heart (Matt 18:35). But how can God command our feelings? That isn't fair! I can't make myself feel a certain way. In What Jesus Demands from the World, pastor/author John Piper responds to these objections:

The fact that I may be too corrupt to experience the emotions that I ought to have does not change my duty to have them. If Jesus commands it, I should have it. My moral inability to produce it does not remove my guilt; it reveals my corruption. It makes me desperate for a new heart---which Jesus came to give.

The command to love one another requires no less than that we have a deep emotional affection for one another. That is not all it requires. But, we cannot fulfill the command with any of our efforts without the underlying affection. Encouragement, service, hospitality---these must flow from affection.

The biggest obstacle to us loving others is the fear of being hurt. If you take the command to love others seriously, then you learn very quickly that getting hurt is part of the deal. C.S. Lewis put it this way:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket---safe, dark, motionless, airless---it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

At age seventeen when I became a Jesus-follower, I had done what Lewis warns against. I had locked away my heart to keep it safe. I don't agree with Lewis, however, that hearts can become irredeemable. By God's grace, he has given me a new heart, removing my heart of stone and giving me a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26. Following Jesus these last eighteen years, I've found myself getting more and more "entangled" in relationships. The first entanglements were with faithful Christian men, who began to teach me about God and Christian brotherhood. Then, my beloved wife, Christina, came into my life, and she showed me much about gentleness and compassion. When I became a father myself, I began to understand more deeply the unconditional love that our heavenly Father has for us. Over the last couple years, God has been putting in me a greater, deeper affection for the people of His church.

I am still a mere novice at this art of loving others, but God has taken me further than I would have imagined possible eighteen years ago. I pray that in these next few weeks, God would show me more about what it means to love others. And, that he would give me more of his Spirit that allows us to obey the command to love one another. Ezekiel 36:27.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. ~ Ezekiel 36:26-27


  1. Nathan,

    I love this C.S. Lewis quote...so, so true! Thank you for sharing your heart so transparently, too. It is a joy to get to know you better through this venue!

  2. Thanks for the kind comment. I felt that God was calling me to this project, but I've always been concerned about whether my heart is right about it---whether I'm doing it for God's glory or my own. I struggle with that a lot. I'm very fearful that this will become an exercise in spiritual pride and legalism. I do feel that the best way to keep my heart right is to be transparent and honest about my failures, so I'm trying to do that.

    I think Lewis was the most quotable Christian of the 21st Century. He could pack a lot of meaning into a few words.