Saturday, March 21, 2009

Theologically Accurate Kindergarten Teachers

Several days ago I stood on the first floor of our school to help the elementary teachers dismiss their students.  As always they flicked the light a few times to get the kid’s attention then ended the day with a word of prayer.  

It was the words of the prayer that caught my attention.  

The elementary teacher prayed, thanked the Lord for his safety and provision, and said these words, “Thank you, Lord, for our pastors and all they do to serve . . . “  As I listened to the prayer I mentally inserted the word, “Us.”  All they do to serve us.  

That makes sense, right.  Our pastor’s serve us.  They teach us the word, pray for us, and counsel us among dozens of other things.  

But that’s not what the teacher prayed.  

She said, “ . . . all they do to serve YOU.” 

Her final word caught my attention.  Rather than focusing on the pastor’s service to us, she directed their efforts to the one who’s most deserving of it, God.  

Perhaps this is a small thing.  It’s merely a difference in pronouns.  Big deal, right?  

Actually, I think the difference underlies a huge deal.  What’s the focus of a Christian’s ministry?  Is it helping others or serving God?  Some might accurately point out that serving God does help others.  True.  In fact, that is an important foundational truth, but it does not always appear that way.  

What are some instances where serving God primarily or serving others evidences a difference of approach?  My first thought is church discipline.  Apart from the desire to obey New Testament commands, church discipline makes little sense.  Pop psychology would rarely encourage a group to oust a member from its loving, caring circle for their own good.  In such situations it’s only a trust in the promises us God that allows us to step out in discipline rather than allow behavior to proceed unchecked.  

Without question America evidences a difference in these two philosophies when it comes to missions.  Thousands of Americans leave our coasts every year to help fellow members of the human race.  Great!  UNICEF, the Peace Corps, and a dozen other agencies invest millions of dollars and thousands of man hours to staunch the suffering of others.  

I think these agencies do some wonderful things.  Millions of people’s suffering would increase if these agencies ever closed their doors.  However, that being said, the impetus behind these organizations remains worlds apart from the hundreds of missionaries who leave home, friends, and family to proclaim the glory of Christ.  Does the glory of Christ help the suffering of people?  Most certainly.  Look at the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well.  She came looking for a bucket of water to keep her alive for several days.  It would keep her from suffering.  Jesus then offered springs of water that would never fail.  His purpose was to be glorified and in that he relieved a woman’s spiritual suffering.  

Our purpose as Christians is to serve God.  He’s the one we must obey, follow, and honor.  If we’re able to fulfill those callings in doing so we will help others.  

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