Third Saturday of Advent: Speaking through Service
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
—Romans 15:1-7 (Read Romans 15)
Long before I knew anything about The Five Love Languages (I still don’t know much), my father embodied what it looks like to love others through “acts of service.”
If he was getting ice cream, he would survey the rest of the family—no matter how dispersed we might have been throughout the house—to see if anyone else wanted a bowl delivered to their room. He seldom stood up without asking my mother if she wanted more tea, Diet Dr. Pepper, or ice water.
During my summers home from college, he consistently packed my lunch in the morning while packing his own. After I got engaged, and after he discovered my fiancée’s appreciation for chocolate milk, he made sure it was stocked in his fridge anytime she came over.
As a child, I didn’t get it. I remember wondering why he thought my mom couldn’t get her own drink. She knew her way to the kitchen. She knew what was in the fridge. As did the rest of us. Sure, I said yes to the ice cream offers—I was no fool.
But somehow, it never occurred to me that my dad was showing love and concern for me or the rest of my family by consistently thinking of us and serving us in these ways.
Fast-forward a couple decades, and I find myself entertaining guests in our home regularly. Many of them are college students. A consistent refrain issuing from my lips has been: “Just make yourself at home.”
In other words, help yourself. I often point vaguely toward the fridge or the cabinets containing glasses. Or the pot of coffee I might have brewed in expectation of their visit.
There it is. Help yourself.
My intention has been to communicate welcome: What’s ours is yours. We want you to feel at home. When you’re here, you’re family.
It sounds nice. But it’s lazy. And this realization, I’m afraid, has been a very recent epiphany.
Even more disappointing was this discovery: My desire has been to invite guests to feel at home, to feel like family. And yet, I’ve never demonstrated much hospitality to people who are members of my family.
Unlike my father, I seldom offer to do the small things to serve others in my home.
Other than brewing that pot of coffee (which, let’s be honest, is as much for me as for anyone else), I’ve spent precious little time considering the desires or needs of the guests—or family members—occupying my home.
Romans 15:1-7 concludes with the invitation to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Christ welcomes us as friends, as family.
At the Last Supper, he didn’t invite his disciples to “Make themselves at home” or “Help themselves.”
No, Jesus girded himself with a towel, poured water into a basin, and then knelt—taking the disciples’ dirty feet into the same hands that would have nails driven through them soon after this moment. Even then, he was thinking of others, giving, serving.
In John 13:14, Jesus says, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” Or at the very least: be willing to refill a drink, offer ice cream, or make an intentional effort to meet the needs of the guests (or family members) gathered in your home.
I’m going to start small. Would my wife like some chocolate milk? I don’t know. But I’m planning to ask.
—Tyler Charles, CCO Midwest Staff Director