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SO MUCH DYING TO BE DONE!

Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who...
emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.

    Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a
stumbling-block to the weak... When you sin against others in this way and
wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

    If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all
the more?. But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with
anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

    'Everything is permissible' -- but not everything is beneficial.
'Everything is permissible' -- but not everything is constructive. Nobody
should seek their own good, but the good of others.

    If any would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their
cross and follow me.

    But in your society... if anyone wishes to be great they must be your
servant; if anyone wishes to hold the first place, they must be everyone's
slave.

    I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should
wash one another's feet.

(Philippians 2:5-7, RSV; 1 Corinthians 8:9,12, NIV; 1 Corinthians 9:12, NIV;
1 Corinthians 10:23-24, NIV; Mark 8:34, RSV; Matthew 20:26-27, Barclay; John
13:14, GNB)

~~~

We live in a world that is drunk with rights. Women's rights, children's
rights, land rights, human rights, animal rights, civil rights, the rights
of the unborn: the varieties crowd around us like bottles on the shelves of
a liquor shop. And having imbibed, we reel down the street, unable to
distinguish tree from lamppost, unable to walk a straight line. Like
alcohol, 'rights' have become for some a panacea for all our social ills.

    Into this intoxicating environment, the words of the Bible crash with
all the gentleness of an axe wielded by a temperance crusader in a bar.

    Jesus and Paul are not wowsers on a rampage, however: the concept of
'rights' has some value for expressing spiritual truth and focussing efforts
for social change. But their calls to servanthood move us beyond the chimera
of self-assertion to the reality of a love so concrete it is prepared to
sacrifice for the sake of others even things to which we have a right.

    Here is one of the touchstones of true servanthood. Are we prepared to
give up legitimate and treasured pastimes, possessions, prerogatives if love
for someone, Christian or non-Christian, asks it?.

    The idea is appallingly practical, appalling because it is practical. We
know that in so many ways we are capable of it. But time and again we refuse
it, choosing instead the road of self- indulgence and pride and delusion.

    Giving up our 'rights' is a kind of death: a death to self. And dying is
hard. But in the end, despite our unwillingness to believe so, it is the way
to life. The only way.

~~~

I need to be so utterly God's, that he can use me or hide me, as he chooses,
as an arrow in his hand or in his quiver. I will ask no questions: I
relinquish all rights to him who desires my supreme good.

Helen Roseveare, Living Sacrifice


We are neither big nor small but what we are in the eyes of God, and as long
as we surrender ourselves totally then God can use us without consulting us.
We like to be consulted but letting him use us without consultation is very
good for us. We must accept emptiness, accept being broken in pieces, accept
success or failure.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta


Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success.
It has to do with love.

Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water


The Learner: How often am I to surrender myself, Lord, and in what matters
am I to leave my own preferences behind?. The Beloved: Always; at every
moment, in small things as much as in great.

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ


Our whole personality can be established, strengthened, settled, given a
sure confidence, only when there is a basis of abundant love.

Leon Morris, 1 and 2 Thessalonians


Mechanical, the

Amber cricket makes her way

Across the concrete:

Eggs must be laid and there is

So much dying to be done!

Andrew Lansdown, Counterpoise


We must see the difference between choosing to serve and choosing to be a
servant. When we choose to serve we are still in charge. We decide whom we
will serve and when we will serve... But when we choose to be a servant we
give up the right to be in charge.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline


Condescend to all the weaknesses and infirmities of your fellow-creatures,
cover their frailties, love their excellencies, encourage their virtues,
relieve their wants, rejoice in their prosperities, compassionate their
distress, receive their friendship, overlook their unkindness, forgive their
malice, be a servant of servants, and condescend to do the lowest offices to
the lowest of mankind.

William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life


Oh, beware of the mistake so many make, who would fain be humble, but are
afraid to be too humble. They have so many qualifications and limitations,
so many reasonings and questionings, as to what true humility is to be and
to do, that they never unreservedly yield themselves to it. Beware of this.
Humble yourself unto death. It is in the death of self that humility is
perfected.

Andrew Murray, Humility


But the Christian knows from the outset that the salvation of a single soul
is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and
tragedies in the world: and as for superiority, he knows that the vulgar
since they include most of the poor probably include most of his superiors.

C.S. Lewis, article on 'Christianity and Literature'


The Church... will have to take a strong line with the blasphemies of
hubris, power-worship, envy and humbug, for these are the roots of evil. She
will have to speak of moderation,  purity,  confidence,  loyalty,
steadfastness, patience, discipline, humility, content and modesty.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison


No one has any right to claim a right, to indulge in a pleasure, to demand a
liberty which may be the ruination of someone else... A pleasure or an
indulgence which may be the ruin of someone else is not a pleasure but a
sin.

William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians


This attitude -- the willingness to give oneself away, to give up good
things for the sake of the better... is loss only in a limited sense. On the
one hand it is real loss because what we lay aside in redeeming the world is
in fact laid aside -- time to enjoy an artistic talent, to read a book or to
make a garden. This is not insignificant. At times it causes great longing
and heart-searching and is a source of temptation just as the devil used
life itself to tempt Jesus when Peter said, 'This [suffering] shall never
happen to you' (Matthew 16:22). We must not underestimate this loss. Yet in
another sense we lose nothing. We do not experience only loss now, for God
honours the imitation of his love.

Ranald Macaulay and Jerram Barrs, Being Human

~~~

Lord, your gentle words are strong enough to break me. They ruthlessly
expose my duplicity. Deep down, I want to love and serve you; and equally
deeply, l resist you.

    This double-mindedness has wounded me. Lord: heal me. And it has wounded
others, little ones for whom Jesus died: heal them where I have harmed.

    I confess that many times I have heard your call to servanthood but have
pretended to be deaf to your voice. I confess that often, when l have
committed myself to serve you, as soon as you have faced me in one of your
children I have withdrawn my service. I am like the man who put his hand to
the plough but looked back; I am not fit for the kingdom of God. Your mercy
is my only hope.

    There are things in my life, Lord, that are legitimate and good, but
that I have clung to and even now would be reluctant to give up for the sake
of love. I name them before you... Lord, these things stand like sea-walls
between me and the ocean of your love; I renounce them, and pray for the
strength to live out that renunciation.

    Jesus, you are king of the universe, yet you wrapped a towel around your
waist and washed the smelly feet of your disciples. This is not only an
example for me to follow; it is an offer for me to accept. Yet like Peter, I
have often refused your service, being strangely reluctant to let the one
who drips love like water from his hands touch my feet. Give me a vision of
your desire to serve me, so that -- like Peter -- I will come to accept this
astonishing love and be transformed.

~~~

A Benediction

Go under God's mercy, knowing that when you are faithless he is faithful,
and that when you fail he can redeem your failure. All things are possible
for him, and 'he will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be
blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 1:8, NIV).

Rowland Croucher ed., Still Waters, Deep Waters (Albatross/Lion), chapter 11

 
rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
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