Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A servant's heart

One virtue that nearly all ethnic and religious groups pride themselves on is their hospitality, or at least what they perceive as their spirit of hospitality. For those whose spiritual roots are in the Hebrew and Greek scriptures of the Holy Bible, their hospitality is the obvious response to such verses as,

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 NKJV

Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV

The Greeks among whom I live call this virtue philoxenía, literally, love of strangers, and the remembrance of Abraham’s hospitality to the three strangers when he was camped at the oak of Mamre is always at the back of our minds, visually in the form of the ikon, emotionally in the feeling of gratitude we have for God’s kindness to us.

Hospitality, though, has its limits for most people, even for Christians, even for me. The different kinds of hospitality we offer others, from shallow and formal to deep and unconditional, almost makes it hard to imagine them all being one and the same virtue.

I want to say that at some point, hospitality crosses a line. It ceases being just making people comfortable and happy and then seeing them on their way. The author of the letter to the Hebrews writes, “Let brotherly love continue,” and though that is a good thing, must it stop there?

Or perhaps he meant more when he wrote, “Let brotherly love continue.” Could he have been thinking along the lines of holy apostle John? who writes, “This has taught us love—that He gave up His life for us; and we too ought to give up our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16 JB)

One genuine virtue that seems to go unnoticed by Christians (I can only remark on them, since they are my social and religious group)—even while they are busying themselves with “works of hospitality”—is having a servant’s heart.

No, I don’t mean talking about having it and praising others who we say have it, but actually having it—a servant’s heart.

Those who have a servant’s heart are like women, as women used to be by and large before the changes wrought in them by feminism. Having a servant’s heart is not thinking of the virtue of hospitality, not limiting it by what we are willing to do for others, but being watchful, being careful of the ones we want to serve, and then
doing all we can.

Like the eyes of a servant watching his master,
like the eyes of a maid on her mistress’s hands,
so we keep our eyes on the Lord our God,
as we wait for His kindness.
Psalm 123:2

But having a servant’s heart is not only for women:
Putting the other before yourself in everything is what makes a man a man in the truest sense. The Man of men Himself demonstrated it, and His manhood was not diminished but attained the image.

How can it be so hard for us to see that it is by emptying ourselves of the glory of our individual being, in living for others with a servant’s heart, that we have been proven to have already passed over from death to life?

Regarding Christianity at least, what holy apostle Paul has written to his younger colleague Timothy is true, “The only purpose of this instruction is that there should be love, coming out of a pure heart, a clear conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5 JB), and in this he was only handing over what he had heard from the Lord,

For the Son of Man Himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 Jerusalem Bible

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