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NOT TO BE SERVED BUT TO SERVE

What have we come to when senior doctors, earning £100,000 a year, care more about their pay than their patients? Suppose we all stand out on the streets in the evening, bang our saucepans and boo! But then who could do that these days without guilt? Who is not on strike in what used to be called our public services?

At the coronation the king made a point of emphasising that he came “not to be served but to serve”. This used to be the prevailing sense of what it meant to be a public servant: a doctor, a teacher, yes a civil servant, a postman, even a train driver or a baggage handler. These, and so many other occupations were seen primarily as a way of serving others. Of course, such servants were entitled to be rewarded and supported in proportion to the amount of skill, training, and responsibility that their work involved. But they were not in it for the money but to be of service to others. People used to go into medicine in order to heal the sick, not in order to get rich. Where has that spirit of service gone?

It was of course Jesus who first described his calling as “not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20.28). Jesus urged his followers to trust in God to provide them with all they needed in the way of food and shelter. God would provide for them, if they concentrated on serving Him and other people. That is what we have lost: a sense that we are God’s creatures, living and working in God’s world, subject at the end to God’s judgement, and that the way that God wants us to live is in serving, not in being served.

In so many subtle and unforeseen ways a society starts falling apart when we lose sight of God and all that he has said and done for us, most of all in and through his Son Jesus. It is so easy to think that we can live our lives our own way; that all we are here for is to please ourselves; that we human beings can order and govern the world by our own wisdom and knowledge. But when we try to do so, our world begins to fall apart. And that is what we are witnessing today, in so many ways and in so many places: our society collapsing and falling apart.

There is of course no remedy for all this but to turn back to God. A collapsing health service may not seem a sign that we have turned away from God, but it is. And the way to revive a health service may not seem to be to turn back to God, but it is. It is a long job, turning a nation back to God, but, with God’s help, we have done it in the past. Led by John Wesley and other leaders of the Evangelical Revival in the 18th and 19th centuries (my own great-grandfather was a revered preacher in the Bible Christians, a Methodist sect in Devon in the 19th century) the nation was turned back to God. But in the 20th and 21st centuries we have back-slidden once again.


Pray for revival – or perish.

_____

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