This was the last weekend for our Outward Focused Life series. It ended with a big volunteer fair with opportunities to plug into ministry and serve others.
Had I more time, I probably would have talked a bit about what deters us from being servants. There is an element in our fallen genetics that resonantly whispers with Milton’s Devil in Paradise Lost: “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”
I think we’re easily deceived with this one. It’s my daily challenge, frankly, in a thousand little decisions. Or a million points of darkness. I lose sight of the freedom servanthood gracefully brings. There is a false freedom that enslaves me.
One day while sitting at a traffic light I noticed a man walking across a field at the VOA Park with a big Labrador dog. This dog seemed to be having a spectacular time running around him. He appeared thoroughly thrilled to be there with his master, circling him, panting, and ready to do whatever the master wanted to do. There was no leash, but the dog was staying tightly close and apparently having boatloads of, uh, dog-fun.
My Shih Tzu dog, Lucy (don’t laugh…), on the other hand, will probably never see life beyond her leash. I’m fairly sure she has the I.Q. of a carrot. One day I took Lucy for a walk around the little pond at the front of our subdivision. For some wacky reason I thought, “I bet if I take her off the leash, we’ll have a bonding moment. Master and man’s best friend, sitting by the pond together watching the wind bend the cattails and the geese fertilize the grass.” In an idealized moment of insanity, I took her off the leash. Lucy trotted a few feet ahead, stopped, looked back at me and then at the street ahead, and suddenly took off like a bullet.
I ran after her, but with no hope of catching up. She shot down the highway veering out in the middle of the street as fast as she could. By this time I’d resorted to calling her every name possible within the ethical parameters of being a pastor and city decency laws. Or in the immortal words of Ned Flanders, “Ding dang doodley darn it.”
Finally, I gave up and figured I’d eventually see her picture on a milk carton. But someone in the next subdivision was able to grab her. By the time I caught up to them, Lucy’s eyes were wild with freedom and her tongue as long as her abandoned leash. But it’s a freedom that could have killed her because she had no clue of the danger of two-ton SUV’s. Or who would feed her. Or the peril of the pound. And don’t even mention vivisectionists.
The leash is for her safety because she won’t listen to the voice of her master.
That’s the difference between a trust-based relationship with Jesus…and religion. The Law is a leash designed to keep us safe and protected. But true childlike trust and freedom is found in the leash-lessness of grace, when we find ourselves satisfied with the voice of our Master, romping in the fields of the Kingdom with Him, fetching whatever He throws and panting for His presence. We trust Him to keep us safe. We take pleasure in His calling our name.
If God asks me to be a servant—to get over myself—do I delight in that…or do I need some cosmic leash?
Maybe it depends on the choices I make today.