Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Servanthood in the Family

Out of my woeful lack of servitude in my family, I thought it would be good to take a few moments to go over some things I have learned about being a servant in the family from the vantage point of a husband and father and then reflect upon some of it.

From the Scriptures, I have noticed here is a sort of duality to our servanthood. This is best typified by Christ, of course, who is everwhere in the Scriptures shown as the perfect suffering Servant. When I say "duality", I mean that although Christ came and served His bride, the Church, by giving Himself up for Her, giving His life as a ransom for Her, this servitude was derivative. It derived from Christ's servitude to the Father.

Phi 2:3-11
(3) Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
(4) Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(5) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(6) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
(7) but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
(8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(9) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
(10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
(11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

and again...

Joh 6:37-39
(37) All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
(38) For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
(39) And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

and again...

Joh 8:28-29
(28) So Jesus said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.
(29) And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him."

The application of this truth to being a husband and father is great, though I certainly haven't full grasped it. There is a lot to meditate upon here.

Here are a few observations:

1. Part and parcel of true service is the willing, joyful, loving emptying of self. Christ willingly emptied Himself, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Likewise, though we are inherently of the same status and essence of others (as we have heard it said, "the playing field is level at the foot of the cross"), we are to not consider that as something to be grasped.

2. Unlike Christ, though, we do not share equality with the Father. We are creatures who owe loving service and glory to God. However, we are equals, in essence, with others. So how much more should we be serving God by humbling ourselves before others!

3. Christ's service of others forms the basis of the greater-to-lesser argument that goes like this... if Christ is God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, very God of very God, who came in service to the Father, and that service did also include becoming as a man and being killed as a criminal, then how much more should we, who are not God, not pure, not lovely, not holy, not sinless, not due all glory and honor and power but are instead sinful, rebellious, and deserving of condemnation, be serving others who are in essence our equals? If Christ's level of willful, joyful condescension was of that magnitude, then what excuse do we have for thinking we are above humbling ourselves, as mere men, before other men?

4. One thing that stands out, as well, is that Christ's service to the Father involves seeing the Father's interests as greater. Similarly, why should my desire to do this or do that or be this or be that conflict and override my attention to the desire of my wife and children? It shouldn't. Though I may way to become a virtuoso guitar player, make a name for myself, or even do something very helpful within the Church to edify others, if my service to my wife and kids suffers, then I am failing. They can be good and noble things in themselves, but they are still my interests -not the interests and needs of those God has put in my care.

5. Christ's service to the Father, and the derivative service to His Bride according to the will of the Father, was a joy to Christ. It was hard, it involved pain and suffering, but it was His joy to serve the Father by serving His Bride. We shall do the same. We shall consider our service in marriage, our role as husband, a loving expression of our gratitude and love for the Father and His will for us.

6. Christ's service to the Father was perfectly and infallibly rendered and still is, as He intercedes for us on the basis of His one-time sacrifice as our High Priest. It is fitting that the model we are to look to is both a model of unsurpassed perfection and holiness, and also a model that is so intimately tied into who we are as Christians -the Blessed Savior and His work of redemption for us.

So what kind of service is required to be a husband and father? Supernatural service, for one. It is something that is worked in us and guided by the Holy Spirit. Second, it is service that is hard and requires much of us even when the benefits seem to us to be nothing. Third, it is service that is done primarily with and eye on our God; that we may serve our wife and children as an expression of grateful and adoring service to Him. Fourth, it is service that involves constant self-denial. Fifth, it is to be joyful. This one is difficult because we often look at service as a burden, but let us have the mind of Christ who took pleasure in serving the Father even though it cost Him even His human life. Let us pray for a joyful heart that sees self-denial for the interests of our wives and children something far better, far more enjoyable, far more gratifying and enriching than seeking and satisfying our own interests first.

Eph 5:25-30
(25) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
(26) that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
(27) so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
(28) In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
(29) For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,
(30) because we are members of his body.

Let us remember also that the way in which we love our wives is for the purpose of building her up and sanctifying her in Christ. It is out of this profound love that we suffer burdens, chastisement, trouble, and discouragement -yet always with an eye upon Christ who did this, successfully and perfectly, for us.

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