Reflections on service 反思侍奉的道路

Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God

In the precept class just past, a classmate shared Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This simple verse not only encapsulated the principles guiding Christian living, it also cast new light on what service to God should look like.

Those of us who serve in church – whether we have just started serving or whether we have been involved for quite some time, we need to remember that what we call ‘service’ is actually a gift from God, an avenue through which He works in our lives, moulding us into Christ-likeness. Because our all-knowing and all-powerful God really do not need us to do anything for him. Therefore, if we find service challenging and tiring, I would say, we are probably on the right track, for while involvement in ministry can be energizing, it also has its fair share of draining moments, and these are our moments of growth.

The world expects Christians to be saints, but we know better. Filled with sinners (through and through), church is often messy and complicated. As such, when we serve in church and become more involved with the church community, we often encounter disappointment. We are disappointed when people do not behave the way we think they should, when people are not who we think they seem to be, when things do not go the way we had hoped for. Yes, conflicts exist in church. And when faced with these trials, our first instinct is always to judge others, to demand change from them, couching compromise in terms of the adjustments we expect the other party to be making. Self-righteously, we feel justified to be on a warpath when we think we are right, when we think an injustice has been done to us.

Taking a step back, did not God say that vengeance (Deut. 32:35) belongs to Him, a call for us to bring any injustice to Him, instead of seeking redress or taking matters in our own hands? As such, when God call us to “act justly,” He really mean for us to examine our actions instead of that of others.

Truth be told, in any conflict, it is almost impossible to pinpoint who is right and who is wrong. Very often, both parties are both right and wrong at the same time, but in different ways. In the arena of service, most of us come with pure objectives and good intentions, but different ways of doing things. In these instances, to insist on going about things our way, i.e. ‘my way or the highway’ seems to be the wrong way. A friend shared with me recently, if doing ‘x’ instead of ‘y’ is not going to cost us our salvation, then there is no reason to insist on ‘y’ or even ‘x’ for that matter. Her words hit a nerve and made me realise that acting justly is not all about taking large strides forward, it could also be in the form of stepping backwards and being accommodating, and counting others more significant as ourselves (Philippians 2:3), and accepting the ways they do things as our ways.

This is consistent with what Micah 6:8 teaches about mercy, beseeching us to “love mercy.” Mercy is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as compassion and forbearance. In Christian education, mercy is often held up as a foil to grace; if grace were receiving that which we do not deserve e.g. redemption from sin, then mercy is not receiving that which we deserve e.g. penalty for sin. In tangible terms, this means that even in circumstances where we are clearly in the right and the other party is wrong, we are not to throw our weight around or be insistent. Instead, we are told to be merciful, to be compassionate and show forbearance.

Whether we are able to show forbearance has a lot to do with how humble and careful we are in our dealings with others, in and out of church. Here, being careful means really thinking before speaking and acting, showing consideration for how would words and actions can impact others or be misunderstood. In some sense, we appear to be bending backward to please others, and the extent to which one should go is an entirely personal decision. For me, I hold the view that the Christian life is a life lived for others, for never for a moment was Christ living for himself, and looking at things from this perspective, we certainly can never do enough for Christ.

At the end of the day, what is of utmost importance is our walk with God. John 15:5 tells us that apart from God we can do nothing; for our service to be fruitful, God has to be our leader and guide, the centre of everything we do. We are to submit ourselves to His will, as well as to the authority that He has placed over us, if we claim to be serving Him.


行公义,好怜悯,谦虚谨慎与你的神同行

有位姐妹在最近一次的恩言善道课堂上分享了弥迦书6:8,“世人哪!耶和华已经指示你甚么是善,他向你所要的又是甚么;无非是要你行公义,好怜悯,谦虚谨慎与你的神同行。”简约的一句话除了道尽基督徒该如何行,也让我在侍奉的领域有了新的启发。

不论是刚开始侍奉的基督徒还是参与侍奉已有一段日子的信徒,我们必须紧记侍奉是神给予我们的恩典,因为我们那全知全能的真神根本就不需要世人为祂做些什么。反之,侍奉是神磨练我们的途径之一,让我们在磨练中渐渐地活出基督的样式。因此如果我们觉得侍奉好难好累、侍奉的道路走得很不顺遂,这也是无可厚非的。

教会人多口杂,都是罪人的我们,不足之处实在太多。也因为如此,侍奉时难免会有争执和冲突。遇到这样的情况,我们该如何处理呢?以往,一旦与某人因某事发生了冲突后,我本能地在心里要求对方改变、作出让步,在心里把对方批判了不下百次,却鲜少要求自己改变或做出让步。一直以来,我觉得只要我是对的,我就应该坚持下去,但最近我反思这样做真的是对的吗,真的会得神喜悦吗?

申命记 32:35告诉我们,神必会为我们伸冤,我们须要做的是把所有冤屈带到祂脚前,而不是自以为是地去伸张正义,去要求别人行公义。神是要我们行公义,不是把我们的公义强加在别人身上,所以一旦发生冲突,我们该作的是,在指责别人之前,先自我检讨。

老实说,要在任何争执中做出对错之分其实很不容易,因为往往两方都有错或都没错,一样的出发点但方法不同。在这样的情况下,坚持自己是对的,坚持照着自己的心意走,好像就变得有点不对了。一位朋友告诉我,很多事其实无须坚持,只要不违背神的话语,我们都应该学习去包容、去接受,而不是把自己的想法、把自己处事的那一套强加在其他人身上。她的话启发了我,让我明白,所谓行公义不见得就是要大步迈进,退一步为他的设想、接受别人的不一样也是行公义。

退一步也是公义的说法正好符合弥迦书6:8要我们好怜悯的教诲。但怜悯究竟要如何体现呢?我们常说恩典(grace)是领受了我们不配得到的,如:救赎;而怜悯(mercy)是无须领受我们应得的,如:审判。实际做起来便是,就算知道自己是对的,对方是错的时候,我们不应该落井下石或得理不饶人。反之,我们更应设身处地为对方着想,帮对方找台阶下,帮助对方人情事情的真伪,用耐心和恒心,靠着主的力量,凡事忍让。

忍让得从谦虚谨慎开始,深思而后语,常常为自己言行对他人的影响反思改进,总得来说就是要谨言慎行。有些人认为这么做会不会过于矫情做作,我只能说每个人心中都有一把尺,帮助我们找寻一个能接受的平衡点。就我个人而言,我时刻紧记某位师母说过的话:基督为我们而生、为我们而活、为我们而死,祂的生命没有一刻是自己的,如果说基督徒一生都应该为别人而活,其实也不为过,不是吗?

最后,想要侍奉神的我们必须与神同行。约翰福音15:5告诉我们,只有在主里我们才能结出果子,离开了祂我们什么都做不了。因此,侍奉的道路不是按着我们的心意在进行,而是按着神的旨意在进行。当我们谦卑来到祂面前、行公义、好怜悯,顺服祂的旨意,顺服祂所恩膏的领袖时,我们才可算是侍奉主的仆人。

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