So, how do I let my light shine as a Christian? It takes faith and obeying all of God’s commandments, but we can’t be faithful or obedient Christians without serving. The term “Christian,” in its simplest form, means “little Christ.” Jesus himself stated that he came to Earth not to serve, but to serve people. Therefore, if I want to be a little Christ, I have to serve and not expect to be served. Most of the world would probably regard humble service to others as the greatest acts of kindness, yet many of us don’t humble ourselves.
Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us in advance to do.” Believe it or not, we are wired for good works. Don’t let the excuses the world gives for bad behaviors fool us. Since God created me for good works, I should want to serve.
There is a lady named April in my community who embodies this kind of services perhaps more than anyone I know. Each year she organizes a day of service she aptly called “Matthew 5:16 Day.” April and her family are models of Christian servant hood. They are the foundation of their church and our local Emmaus community. In the span of about 15 years, though, they also lost both their father and step-father to cancer. While others might have questioned their faith, April and her family solidified theirs even more and even seemed to kick it up a few notches.
In the inaugural year of 2009 more than 300 people showed up to serve the Lord for Matthew 5:16 Day. Clothed in bright yellow shirts emblazoned with the Matthew 5:16 scripture, we set out to do good deeds in the community for eight hours that sunny Saturday. Those acts ranged from writing cards of encouragement for shut-ins to painting playground equipment at the local park. It was an unbelievable spiritual high that was pretty much solely the brainchild of April. In the years since 2009, April has been able to grow the day so that three other nearby communities are participating. She has able to get grants to help fund the day. She has passion for this day of service.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the community has April’s passion. Our small community is largely rural and has a population of more than 3,000 people. So, do the math. Even in the first year of the annual event, while it was obviously noticeable and definitely successful to those who participated, not even 10 percent of the community was involved. I know there are more than 300 church-goers who call themselves Christians in our community.
It Matthew 20:28 that Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others…” Sure, some of those who don’t serve on Matthew 5:16 Day probably have viable excuses but I can’t help but be disappointed that not everyone takes Jesus’s example of servant hood as seriously as April. Since 2009, the timeframe for this community service day has been reduced to three hours and the number of participants has diminished to less than 200! The lights that serve are bright but there just aren’t enough lights!
In my readings of the Bible, I’ve discovered 12 core commandments God, either himself or through Jesus, spoke directly to us to use as a roadmap for earthly obedience and service. Ten of them he etched in stone, twice! If we aren’t obeying them then we aren’t obeying God and we’ve already fallen short of service to him before we can even get to service of our fellow man. These commandments are, like the Bible where they are found, double-edged swords. Obeying them completely serves both God and our fellow man. God’s word works that way. It can be applied to every one of life’s moments. So, if we want to follow the example Jesus mentioned in Matthew 20:28, we have to start by following these 12 commands at the very minimum.
The first of these 12 vital commandments are probably the easiest six to obey in their literal wording. These easiest ones are the final six of the Ten Commandments. These commandments are either the basis of our legal system or are innately ingrained in our moral fabric. The crimes of society or the ones in the business world we consider most heinous, are usually violations of one of these final six. Crime dramas are written about these. They can cost lives or livelihoods. Let’s face it, most of these commands some of us have never intentionally violated and the others most of us at least realize our error when we break them.
Most of us have never literally murdered. Most of us have probably never stolen, at least something of “significance” (like a bank, jewelry store or 401k). That doesn’t excuse even the most minor infraction, though. Most of us have probably never committed adultery, or at least I hope not. With today’s availability of inappropriate pictures and videos on the internet, though, lust is a tough one to overcome at times.
Most of us probably feel some sort of conviction when we lie, maybe not on the white lies but be assured those go on the sin column on God’s list too. Remember that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead on the spot in Acts when they lied to the Holy Spirit in the presence of Peter. It was the lie that killed them and not the fact that they weren’t prepared to give all the money they promised. Had they simply promised the Holy Spirit the lesser amount they intended to give, they would have lived.
Most of us probably feel guilty when we are jealous of our neighbor’s possessions or at least know it’s not proper to “keep up with the Joneses.” We should be happy with the blessings God entrusts to us. Most of us probably understand that we should respect loving parents.
Sidebar: Notice that honoring our parents carries extra weight and gets us an added bonus. A long life, in fact. Want to know how much God values the relationship between parents and children? Consider this: He doesn’t promise anything if you go through life and don’t kill anyone. He doesn’t say that never telling a lie will merit you a bonus. He doesn’t say that never stealing anything earns you a reward. He doesn’t say that never being jealous gets you special treatment. He doesn’t say that remaining faithful to your spouse guarantees you happiness (although I will attest that it does!). He does say, though, that honoring your parents will lead to a long life as God intended us to live. Ephesians 6:2 reads, “’Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise.”(NLT) If we can’t love and respect a fair and just father we can see, how can we love and respect one we can’t see?
In the literal sense, we can follow and understand these six commandments. We know it’s wrong to disobey them. When it comes right down to it, most of us really don’t want to see any harm come to our fellow humans and disobeying these is likely going to hurt someone emotionally and/or physically. You can’t begin to serve God or our fellow human if we are inflicting any kind of pain upon them.