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Cultivating Students' Hearts of Service

I was 18 years old when I went to a Bible college to acquire the necessary knowledge to become a pastor. When I arrived, I saw a man in his 70s by the entrance of an imposing building, sweeping the sidewalk around the property. I approached him and asked with a bit of indifference, maybe even contempt and arrogance: “Sir, where do I need to go to register for the college?” He smiled and pointed me in the right direction without many words.

After registering, the secretary showed me all the college’s facilities. When we passed by that gentleman again, who looked like a simple janitor, she said: “This is Mr. David Cox, the founder and current Director of the College.”

I shook his hand, completely embarrassed, and asked: “Why is someone as important as you sweeping the floor?” With that same smile and calm expression, he said: “A servant that doesn’t serve is useless. We are all servants, and there is only one actual LORD.”

This was one of the most remarkable lessons that I learned during all my years there. I studied with PhDs from the highest positions and academic depths and dove into complex subjects, but probably nothing else marked me more in my academic, professional, and private life than the humble example of Mr. Cox. It was common to see him talking to students as equals, picking up trash, or stacking chairs after an event.

Mr. Cox was following the example of Christ, the teacher of teachers. Jesus is the God who came down from his divine position to the inferiority of the incarnation and the life of a humble servant. He himself taught:
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)[1]

The best way to cultivate a serving attitude in others is through being a servant yourself. Serving is contagious, comforting, exemplary, and magnetic. The apostle Paul himself highlights this in his words to the Philippians:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
(Philippians 2:5-8)[1]

Because of their titles, experience, position, or status, many people end up distancing themselves from serving and instead start accumulating rights, receiving high salaries, enjoying VIP rooms, and being surrounded by a series of people who serve us. Many times, without noticing, they end up distancing themselves not only from serving, but from the example of Christ, creating a culture of celebrities and privileges and the idea that it is better to grow and stop serving as soon as possible

Why is serving so important? The “gods” of the ancient world were described as distant from human beings, living in a high, exalted, and unattainable condition. These deities could never be reached and were impersonal. They viewed human beings with total disregard and from a completely utilitarian mind, controlling them through fear and sheer force.

However, God created human beings in His image and likeness. God shared His sovereignty, giving us dominion over all created things and even the freedom to go against Him. Moreover, He interacted and talked with His images daily, asking their opinion, like when He allowed Adam to name the animals. Despite all His greatness, glory, majesty, and sovereignty, God comes to and empowers human beings.

He did not need to do this. There is nothing in us that we can offer that brings God some reward for His service. God serves because this is His nature, in which the three persons of the Trinity serve each other, in love, eternally. Serving is part of who He is. He does not just serve; He is a servant!

And isn't that just what attracts Him the most? Is it not God’s serving nature that moves us to serve Him, imitate Him, and follow Him in all we do and say? Yes, a huge yes! Giving up rights and privileges and humbly serving others, regardless of their positions, functions, titles, social class, age, etc. is what most encourages our students to do the same. A servant’s greatest joy is to serve. Serving is not something that we do, it is who we are. It has to do with our nature as disciples of Christ. For this reason, our students learn much more about who we are and how we live out what we teach than the actual content we teach.
Creuse Santos
Creuse is a father, pastor, theologian. He is currently working towards his Doctor of Ministry degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and is transitioning to Uruguay to work in theological education and mentor pastors. 

[1] Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Italics added. Used with permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Photo Credits:
Smiling School Kids. Shutterstock. Resized.
Women Serving Food. Shutterstock. Resized.
Serving. Shutterstock. Resized.
25 Jan 23
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