To Serve or Be Served?

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Each day most of us unconsciously question ourselves whether we should serve or be served. We are seldom aware of this dialogue, but our thought patterns and actions reveal what lingers in our hearts. We regularly affirm our commitment to service. Here at FPU our mission includes the language of preparing students for “leadership and service.” In this environment we usually define leadership as an act of service. So, it is easy for us to assume that we have a service-oriented work culture. But do we ever ask ourselves the motivation for our activities? Even those which we identify as service. No one can read our minds or discern our hearts, but if we are honest, our motives for service are not always pure.

Jesus makes it clear that he came to serve and not to be served. Given our natural inclination to protect personal rights and avoid the inconvenient as well as the longing to be acknowledged and praised, we naturally lean toward self-seeking service. Are we not amazed that the one who created us all would lower himself to serve that which he created? This expression of God’s love for us encourages us to share this love with others. Jesus’ commission to his disciples was “to love in the same way that he loved them (John 15:12).” His expectations of us is to love or serve as we have been served.

Several months ago I shared a story of our experience in Pakistan concerning the person we hired to serve as a cook in our home. One day he noticed me cleaning the dust from my shoes before heading off to work. He was appalled that I would stoop to clean my own shoes, and immediately wrestled them from me to complete the task. Later that day my wife and I noticed him sitting under a tree cleaning all my shoes so that I would not attempt to clean them again. This was not part of his responsibility, but he served out of gratefulness for a job that helped him to literally feed his family. Each day he served with joy, finding tasks that were not expected or asked of him. His service became an expression of his appreciation for the opportunity to work.

The young man modeled for me the joy of service which comes as we reflect on the goodness of God and his gift to us as children of the kingdom. Some days we are intentional about going out of our way and remind ourselves that our work is not about us, but about our students, our colleagues and the Central Valley. We educate, mentor, model and manage our time as an expression of love for God and our neighbors.

Some of the feedback we received from the “envisioning forums” in which many of you participated were ideas for a campus service day, and a corporate beautification effort. The president’s council discussed these possibilities and thought this summer would be a good opportunity to model corporate service through a campuswide beautification initiative. We have consulted with members of our maintenance staff, who suggested several projects that complement their work in preparing for students in the fall. We have decided to dedicate a Friday morning towards these efforts, which will end with lunch. An announcement will be made in the coming weeks as to the best date. We will list the projects for sign-up and request that departments who have additional ideas for beautification of interior or exterior spaces to submit them to the president’s office. These will be vetted with our maintenance staff before a full list is posted for sign-up.

This is a small way we can serve our new students and parents as they arrive on campus this fall. Our regional campuses are encouraged to participate with projects that will enhance those environments. We will send a message through the Squawk Box. Alumni and friends of the university are welcome to join us in this half-day of service.

Mother Theresa once said: “We can’t all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  Let’s find the small things to include in our daily routines to remind us that we are here to serve and not to be served.