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Love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:39)
The Christian life is one of service to others, where we show love and kindness to everyone, even to those who do not treat us well. We can serve others in many ways, and we should ensure that we use every opportunity that we can.
One of the most valuable ways to serve others is to show them that we care. Giving our time and encouragement to someone will often be more valuable than even the most generous gift. There are many people who feel lonely and want to chat with others. Even those who have many friends, and a loving family, enjoy speaking to new people.
When others need our help most, we should make a special effort to show them that we care. By providing love and support we can make a real difference in the lives of others. Paul has reminded us that helping others when they are struggling is fundamental to the gospel.
Carry each otherís burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
In many cases we will not be able to solve someone else's problems by ourselves, but we can advise them on what they can do for themselves, or what others can do for them. We must be careful that we do not assume our advice is always correct, but quiet and wise guidance will often be invaluable, and provides a real service to others.
Telling others of the good news of Jesus is the prime example of how informing and educating others can help people change their lives. Letting others know about our own experiences, in a sincere and loving manner, can help people to discover the truth of the Christian gospel.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19)
There are several careers which have traditionally been associated with service. Those working in the fields of medicine, education and the armed forces have always been respected for the help which they bring to others through their work.
However, it is important to realise that every job provides a service to others. If someone is willing to pay for a product or service it shows that they find it valuable. If an employer is willing to pay someone a wage, it illustrates that they value the work of that employee. Even though we get paid for our work, we should still realise that it is providing a service.
The spirit of service should be seen in all aspects of our work. By providing a Second Mile Service, meaning that we go the extra mile for our customers and employers, we can serve others and help them in ways which they appreciate and find useful.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. (Matthew 5:41)
Our work will often serve those who can afford to pay for our help and skills. However, there are many people who cannot meet their physical needs with their own money.
We can serve these people by ensuring that they have the resources they need, even if they could not normally afford them. Much of this provision is achieved by taxation and redistribution through the government. Paying tax can feel like an inconvenience, and there is a debate about how effective government based redistribution is, and how much should be redistributed. However, when paying our taxes we should remember the benefits that it brings to others, and the impact that our taxes can have on the health and well being of others. This means that we should be honest when paying our taxes and, as Jesus said,
Give back to Caesar what is Caesarís, and to God what is Godís. (Matthew 22:21)
Government also has a major role in providing the peace and freedom which individuals value. By voting for those politicians who are dedicated to helping others, we can also indirectly help others. By supporting causes and movements which contribute to the wellbeing of others, we can be part of changing peoples' lives for the better.
There are many areas where government does not, and should not, have a role. In these cases we can serve others by giving. James said:
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:15-17)
There are three main ways to serve in this respect. Firstly, we can be social entrepreneurs, starting our own charities and groups to help others. We may see that existing solutions are not working, or do not exist, and that we can help by doing something new.
Alternatively, we may see an existing organisation which we want to help by volunteering our time and services. We may have particular skills which makes us able to contribute to these roles.
Finally, we may be able to provide money to help others. Charities need regular gifts to finance their work, and by donating to them you can be part of changing the lives of others.
A final way to serve others is to pray for them. By asking for God to help them and provide for them we can make a real difference in people's lives. Jesus said that whatever we ask for in prayer will be given, so we should remember the spiritual and physical needs of others before our own. It is also good to pray with others, and Jesus said:
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20)
Each of us can serve in all of the ways which have been discussed above. Just because we serve in one way does not mean that we cannot also serve in others. We should remember the advice of John Wesley to:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.