Stephen Chavez, Managing Editor, Adventist Review/Adventist World
Summary: In His teachings and actions, Jesus put a premium on doing the right thing, not because it “fed the bottom line,” but because it was the right thing to do.
Bottom line: We worship the bottom line. What is in it for us? What is the payback, the return on investment? Those who work in development and mass marketing have formulas for each kind of program they propose. In some direct-mail campaigns the industry standard is about a one percent return. In other words, if you send out 10,000 pieces of mail, you can expect about 100 responses.
Experienced public evangelists know that a certain amount spent on advertising will bring a certain number of people to their opening night’s meeting. And of those, a certain percentage will give their hearts to Jesus and join the Church.
It is part of being good stewards. Didn’t Jesus say, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (Lk 14: 28). But in His teachings and actions, Jesus also put a premium on doing the right thing, not because it “fed the bottom line,” but because it was the right thing to do.
In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaves ninety-nine sheep in the open country, risking their lives for the sake of the one sheep that is lost (Lk 15:4-7). The parable of the Good Samaritan has the Samaritan risking his life and spending his own money on a Jew who almost certainly would not have reciprocated if their situations were reversed (Lk 10:25-37).
Predicting His approaching death, Jesus said, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour” (Jn 12:27). Then He said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (v.32).
Jesus knew that many of the people He came to save would end up rejecting Him. Still He had to fulfill the reason He came to this planet. He said: “The Son the Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28).
Faithful in service
Unselfish service is one of the hallmarks of genuine Christianity. We often think of missionaries who leave lives of ease to go with their families to some foreign country and live in humble, even dangerous, settings. They do this to live God’s love and tell people about the life, death, and soon return of Jesus. Often they work for years without seeing any tangible results.
Then there are doctors and nurses who serve tiny communities that have few, if any, modern healthcare facilities. In metropolitan areas they could earn many times the amount they make in these small communities, but God has called them to serve Him—by serving others—in these modest settings. No one would suggest they are wasting their time in their hard work, even if people do not join the Church as a result.
Acts of service are not just for dedicated pastors, missionaries, and medical professionals. All of us have been commissioned by Christ to reflect His Spirit of compassionate service: “You are the light of the world,” He says. “A city on a hill cannot be hidden …. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:14, 16). How do people in our communities know that God loves them?
Love in action
Perhaps we have been conditioned to believe that the Gospel commission is accomplished primarily by proclamation; that it is just a matter of telling people what they ought to know. But is it possible that we can reflect God’s love to people without ever opening a Bible or inviting them to an evangelistic series?
So much can be accomplished by those of us with modest talents, if our primary goal is to reflect God’s love to the people in our communities—without any strings attached. We could volunteer at one of several community centers—a hospital, a library, a school, or a recreation center. We could deliver “meals on wheels,” read to the blind, visit shut-ins, do grocery shopping for someone who cannot get out, take the elderly to medical appointments, and more.
We might be part of some community activity like maintaining parks and hiking trails, picking up trash along streams, lakes, and rivers. We could teach smokers how to stop smoking, teach immigrants how to speak the language of their new country, or teach adults how to read.
We could join a community ensemble, such as a band or choir. We could help coach underprivileged youth in soccer, swimming, or some other sport. Of course, there is always the possibility that one or more of these activities will lead someone to ask about our faith, and eventually for Bible studies. But even if they do not, we are still reflecting God’s love to our community.
Blessed to be a blessing
The blessings that come from involvement in these types of activities are invaluable. For us, the benefit is being able to develop relationships with people we would otherwise never meet. We are able to sympathize with them and understand that we all share the same needs—the need to be loved, to belong, and to feel secure; all directly addressed by having a relationship with God.
Those we serve will benefit to see how the principle of supreme love for God and others is lived out in the lives of His people. In some communities, Adventists are looked upon with suspicion. This is because we are not known. But the more people see us in positive, proactive, non-threatening situations, the more they see God’s love reflected in us, and the more they will understand God and appreciate His character.
As far as we know, Jesus never told His disciples, “I am going to be feeding 5,000 men here today, along with women and children. Be sure they sign decision cards before they get any fish.” He never said, “Before I heal you, I just need you to sign this Bible study request card.”
Jesus was the greatest example of love in action. Part of His effectiveness was His willingness to spread God’s love indiscriminately to Jew and Gentile, saint and sinner. And He said, “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:27).