Why do Christians walk through life feeling a humble sense that we owe service to people, rather than them owing us? The answer is that Christ loved us and died for us and forgave us and accepted us and justified us and gave us eternal life and made us heirs of the world when he owed us nothing. He treated us as worthy of his service, when we were not worthy of his service. He took thought not only for his own interests but for ours. He counted us as greater than himself: “Who is the greater,” he said, “one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27).I was reminded of a quote from Ed Welch’s book, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (pp. 184-185), which I've excerpted here before:
That is where our humility comes from. We feel overwhelmed by God’s grace: bygone grace in the cross and moment-by-moment arriving grace promised for our everlasting future. Christians are stunned into lowliness. Freely you have been served, freely serve.
So the crucial relational mark of the culture of our church should be Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is the “mind” or the “mindset” that we should have in life together. This is the relational atmosphere where God will grant wisdom for the perplexing work of living in this world.
Which do we really need—to give love or to receive it? We resist the question because we want to say both.
Yet Scripture seems to favor the imbalance. Not that we aspire to have our friend or spouse love us less, but that “in humility [we] consider others better than [our]selves” (Phil. 3:4). When the kingdom of God is ruling our hearts, we aspire more to serve than to be served, honor more than to be honored, and love more than be loved. This doesn’t mean that we don’t care about being loved; it simply means that we always want to outdo others in love.
Do we run the risk of a lopsided relationship? Absolutely. That is the relationship we have with God—he always loves first and most. . . . Throughout Scripture God is the one who loves more than he is loved. He always makes the first move. He advertises his extravagant affection for us even when we are indifferent or opposed to him.
When Jesus Christ, God incarnate, walked the earth, the pattern continued. Through his life Jesus was rejected by his people and misunderstood by his disciples. At the most difficult point of his life, he was betrayed, denied, and abandoned. But through it all his love was unwavering. In this, he established the pattern for true humanness. This is the way we were intended to be. This is life in the kingdom. It wants love, but it wants even more to love others deeply. Its treasure is to grow in the fruits of the Spirit, foremost of which is to love others.