Floods, Serving, and the Other

Saturday was Sunset’s “Serves Up” day. The worship and creative arts department headed up the Vernonia, OR location. I kind of organized our day in Vernonia, so it was great to see that we had between 60 and 70 people there throughout the day. Vernonia was hit hard by one of those “100 year floods” in December. It is incredible to me that even 6 months later you can tell that the city was flooded, and I am grateful that we were all able to lend a hand in various ways. Even 6 months later they still have a FEMA village in full working order.

Every week the worship department at Sunset does a ministry update. This week I wrote something for it regarding our upcoming Serves Up day (below).

Reading that inspired this writing: Philippians 2:3-4

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Something about this statement screams naïve to me. I automatically wonder, what was Paul thinking as I say to myself: “That is impossible in my world; I have to value myself over others.” At the same time I remind myself of how un-Christ like I can be in the way I live and in my thinking. There is no contextualizing we can do with these verses to turn them around so we aren’t called to serve others.

I think we should define others as this: those like and unlike us, with a strong emphasis on those unlike us. Karl Barth, a famous theologian, calls the other here, “the subjective aspect of my neighbor.” Essentially he is saying that the other is the part of people that drives us crazy. I can tell you right away that I do not serve that kind of person (the one unlike me) very often, if ever. I avoid those people almost all the time.

I’ve heard from various people about how pointless “Serves Up” day is. That doing something for one day doesn’t change a thing. Part of me concedes that doing something for “the other” is much more than going out and doing something for one day. But I wonder what Paul had in mind when he tells us to care more about others than ourselves. I wonder how I get over my intense love of self and begin to think about others first.

Here is my conclusion: I think it takes doing deliberate things that force us to love the other. It does not come natural for us. We are totally selfish beings. So I think “Serves Up”, and many other opportunities this summer, are a chance for us to force ourselves into doing things for the other. And hopefully those things slowly change our mindset towards caring for those unlike us.

What do you think: are we inherently selfish or is serving others something natural in us?