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Background Considerations

  • The basic idea of service in the Bible:
    • to God – expressed in a life of obedience and in worship, but always based on God’s initiative and empowerment within the context of a relationship
    • to others – expressed in an altruistic “other-orientation” and efforts to help other people, primarily those not in a position to help themselves – there is nothing more central to the prophets than their call (shrill at times!) to pay attention to the plight of the marginalized.

Relevant Biblical Passages

  • The “Servant Songs” of Isaiah:
    • Isaiah 42:1-4 – The servant (=Israel, as identified throughout this part of Isaiah) works ever so gently to bring about justice in the world.
    • Isaiah 49:1-6 – The servant attempts to restore the rest of Israel to God and serve as a light to the nations.
    • Isaiah 50:4-9 – The servant “sustains with a word” those who are weary, but encounters resistance from an unmentioned hostile source.
    • Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – The servant is humble, unbelieved, rejected, mistreated, but perseveres in his mission to make a difference for others (seen, of course for Christians, in the life of Jesus, but certainly with some kind of obvious and understandable application for the original audience).
  • Matthew 20:20-28 – The story of the mother of James and John and her request of Jesus to elevate her sons in the kingdom; Jesus’ new definition of leadership, now in terms not of power, but of service.
  • Matthew 25:31-46 – The parable of the sheep and the goats and what really matters in our relationships with other people.

Contributions to the Study of Forgiveness

  • Service to others serves as a preventive against offenses which force confrontation and the need for further forgiveness.

Lessons for Life

  • What would it be like if Christians were truly “other-oriented”? Sincerely had the interests of others (whether like “us” or not) at heart?

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