Article Oct 11, 2017

The mark of a Christian: Serving the Body of Christ

I had thyroid surgery this past summer. There were a lot of worries and uncertainties surrounding the surgery, as there is for any serious medical procedure. But one of the things on the forefront of my mind was—where would my kids go while I was in the hospital?

Our closest family lives ten hours away. We don’t have a sitter, and our neighbor was out of town. So I asked my church family, “Can the kids stay with you?” Not only did my brother and sister in the Lord take my kids, they brought us dinner after the surgery.

Such service from my church family isn’t just a kind deed. It’s the natural overflow of our connection to one another in Christ—originating in our union with Christ himself. We love and serve one another in the family of God because Christ first loved us.

Serving our brothers and sisters

Through salvation, Christ’s atoning work for us on the cross, and the Spirit’s work in our hearts, making us alive to faith in that work, we are united to Christ. Paul often referred to this truth as being “in Christ.” And though we come to Christ as an individual, upon salvation we are immediately united to the members of the family of God. Our union with Christ creates our union with others in God’s family. This makes the other believers in our churches our brothers and sisters. That is why the New Testament writers often used familial terms in talking about other believers.

Our love and service to one another in the church is the mark of a Christian.

“I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18).

Because we are a family, we help one another. The kind of help a person needs will vary from one person to the next, but it includes providing for one’s physical needs, helping and serving with our time and labor, and sharing with others what we have. It means providing a meal to a family who has just had a baby. It means lending a car when a friend can’t afford to repair their broken down one. It means offering to babysit when a friend is sick. It means mowing the yard for the elderly. It means sharing clothing, toys, and other material possessions. It may even mean opening our home when a friend loses theirs.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus did something unthinkable. He got down on hands and knees and washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:2-5). Washing feet was a servant’s job; a job for the non-Jew. It was a degrading job. That the God of the universe would lower himself to serve in this way is remarkable and humbling. It was an act of love for his disciples, including his enemy, the one who was about to betray him. When Jesus finished washing their feet, he got up and said,

“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:12-15).

Our Lord set an example for us of what it means to serve one another. When we help and serve our brothers and sisters by meeting their physical needs, we ultimately reflect what our Savior has done for us.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).

Mark of a Christian

In fact, our love and service to one another in the church is the mark of a Christian. It is how the world knows that we belong to Christ. All Christian acts of love and service to one another are glory markers, pointing and reflecting back to the One who loved us first. In John 17, Jesus prayed for the disciples and all who would come after them. He prayed,

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (vv. 20-23).

Jesus prayed that the church would be united as one so that the world would know that God sent him to atone for sin. When we love and serve one another, we testify to who Christ is. Francis Schaeffer called this love the final apologetic. “We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.”  

Our union with one another in the Body of Christ has a high and important goal: love. It’s the inevitable result of being in union with our Savior. His love pours into us, and we extend that love to others. As believers, because we are united to the same Savior, we experience and receive the same love from him. And because he loves us, we love one another.

The ways we serve one another, no matter how big or small, are acts of Christian love in the family of God. They not only help and provide for another’s needs, but they speak to the watching world of Christ’s love for us in the gospel. How can you practically show love to your brothers and sisters in Christ today?