The year of fasting had ended. Then I began new experiences within Messianic Judaism. I was beginning to have an appreciation of seeing things from their perspective, their celebrations of holy days, their cultural traditions, including dancing with the Torah and its metaphoric representation of dancing with God.
Mary and I can both recall the next event taking place, but until now, I had no real idea that it fell on the heels of that changing of events of my year long fast. Around the beginning of October 2011 Mary had this event in her dreams where she was asked “I need to know – do you do any orders?”
Mary explained to me that she understood that to mean that our Heavenly Father was inquiring if she would follow his orders. In her willingness to follow Abba, she definitely prayed answering with a devoted yes. Then Mary asked the family. Each one answered yes. Then Mary asked me.
Before I provide my reply, consider the following: orders are orders.
Take for instance when one is in a command structure: orders, rarely, if ever, can be refused or broken, because orders are to be carried out, not questioned.
So, in direct contrast to her eager willingness, for a few days, I pondered the intentions and ramifications of that question.
Later in the month of October, I wrote a reflection of that event in my journal, giving some thoughts about that question, because that question is actually heavy duty. Here is some of what I wrote in my journal:
… [Mary] asked me [about taking orders], I said, “I have never taken orders…”
For a moment, I want to stop right there. The reason for this is to explain my statement.
As citizens, we are “ordered” to follow social law, like traffic rules. As believers, we are “ordered” to follow biblical law, like love your neighbor. As Christians, we are “ordered” to follow church law, like attend worship.
I do take orders, but I am reluctant to do what another person “orders” me. This response is NOT unique to me, for it is common amongst, at least, citizens of the U.S. because as citizens we are cultivated to want freedom. In that vein, no one likes being “ordered” to do anything, even if it is in their own best interest.
So when I said, “I have never taken orders” it is in the vein of me wanting to understand the purpose of what the order is to achieve. I don’t see how I can be faulted, because experience has shown that even the most devout believer or the most dedicated citizen almost universally wants to know the purpose of the orders, me included.
Those of strictest upbringing or training say that following orders is doing what you are told, when you are told, without question. In essence, when they say, “Jump!” You reply with, “How high?”
Yet, the counterpoint is the responsibility to understand the ethical and moral implications of the orders, and if unethical or immoral, then the orders are to be rejected.
I am one who believes that orders are orders, but orders are to be determined as ethical and moral. When orders have been established as ethical and moral, then one, in a sense, has a duty to make sure the orders are carried out.
I return to my journal:
… [Mary] asked me [about taking orders], I said, “I have never taken orders and have my doubts if I ever will, and that [the question about orders] set uneasy with me. [Previously,] I prayed for Messiah’s portion and repented first. …[Sometime] between October 7 and October 16, I prayed saying that I would take orders.
I told Mary that I prayed [about taking orders, and told her] God does not give stupid orders.”
Let me be absolutely clear, when I prayed asking for the Messiah’s portion, I was not asking to be a messiah because in the context of Jesus there is only one Messiah, and the Messiah is NOT me. But I did want to have a semblance of Jesus and his ability to love, his ability to reach out and assist others, to be effective for the Kingdom of Heaven.
But praying that I would do as instructed from on high that is probably one of the hardest prayers that I have ever prayed. Because Jehovah is God, he can lead someone in whatever he pleases, because that is the will of God, to lead people to accomplish his pleasure, his will.
Additionally, we SHOULD know that God makes vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor (Romans 9.21). The weaker and dishonorable vessels are part of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12.22-25).
However, without exception, my experience tells me that every, well at least every American, Christian wants to be honorable. Functionally, it is the exact same argument the disciples had, “who is the greatest in the kingdom?”
But Jesus said, “the servant”.
Interestingly, I have yet to meet any U.S. Christian who wants to be a servant, because the U.S. Christians I have met, from adolescent to the eldest of the elderly, want to be served, to have their needs met. As such, most U.S. Christians do not want to be a dishonorable vessel, or to be a less seemly part, or to be a servant who takes orders, because every U.S. Christian wants to reserve the right to refuse, God’s servants do not have that right.
Jesus also said the greatest is the one who “humbles themselves like a child”.
Consider that it seems like more time is spent contemplating Paul’s statement: when I became a man, I put away childish things. That is truth in the proper context. But textual interpretation abuses the passage negating Jesus and his teaching to become like a child. Have you ever noticed that adults do NOT take orders? Have you ever noticed that most children take orders?
The U.S. Christian, who has maturation of self and reason, has to contemplate Jesus’ teaching to be like a child and to be a servant, then that same Christian has to comprehend that both positions are dishonorable. Why? Because parents tell their children what to do, and masters order their servants around.
In essence, even though the child is a blessing, it is almost universal that most parents utilize and mold their child to the parent’s (parents’) pleasure, bringing honor and glory to the parent(s). While the child has some rights because of belonging to the family, the servant has few, or absolutely no, rights, this is because the servant is NOT family and in the context of ancient master/servant relationships, the master owned the servant, this means that the master used the servant to accomplish the master’s pleasure.
Those concepts are foreign to almost every modern American Christian. It matters not that American Christians take the Gospel overseas, American Christians interpret the Scriptures as liberation. In that vein, they totally forget that Christ teaches servitude.
Ultimately, servitude is dishonorable. This is because the master receives the glory, NOT the servant, because the servant receives no glory, except to hear, maybe, a “thank you” from their earthly master. However, the Christian who humbles themselves into dishonorableness of servitude (consider 1 Corinthians 7.21-22) for the sake of Messiah can hear, “well done, you’re a good and faithful servant.”
So, let me offer a moment of reflection.
I wanted glory. I wanted to be a minister who was recognized. I wanted to be a preacher that affected the lives of thousands. I wanted to be a name that when spoken, people listened. I would not sell out the truth to achieve that, no more than I will sell out the truth about servants being part of the reality of Christ’s body, but that does not mean that I wasn’t looking to get praises and recognition.
Recall, I prayed to God, “You want me to lay down my life for you, this preaching gig ain’t cutting it, give me something worth dying for.” I can see that coming to pass, but I prayed it because, to be quite candid, I wasn’t receiving the appreciation that I expected. I prayed for something more, that something more brought me reassessment of my ego and pride.
Recall, I prayed for a portion of the Messiah. Well, what I wanted was a greater understanding and ability to live his love and things of that nature. As I have been reflecting on it, I have been given a greater role of servant. To be quite candid, it strips away the ego, it can make one feel empty and worthless. In a word, it’s humiliating.
To be of Christ means to be a servant. Ministers are “servants” but they are recognized and praised, accoladed and honored. So much so that degree fields, special occupational programs, secular positions, human government recognition and tax brackets are designed for it.
How is it servitude when one is trained for it, compensated, recognized, and honored as if employed in a secular field? According to Scripture, God’s servants have been slandered, humiliated, devastated, tortured, dishonored in the human realm, or any combination of the previous.
So you’re not a minister? How about a praise minister, or a missionary? Or in a mostly non-paid role of teacher, deacon, elder? In the modern church, all of these positions receive some kind of training, congregational recognition and praise, generally some type of financial support, and publicly encouraged prayers from the regular untrained, unrecognized members.
Who is really serving who? Do you see how the roles have been inverted?
God compelled me be honest about myself and my intents. Through my experience, it is my hope that other Christians can evaluate a part of their own being. To God, what is a servant?
To be certain, all Christians are not all called to be “suffering servants” destitute and bereft of blessings. That is more of the role and responsibility of a martyr and God does NOT call all Christians to be martyrs.
But God, through Christ, DOES call all Christians to humility and servitude. A characteristic that is not part and parcel to the American Church – denomination, non-denomination, name of Christian association matters not, for, I dare say, that all American Christian Churches and American Christians are so comfortable in their life they know very little of servitude.
So I return to the question: do you do any orders? In essence, do I do as ordered?
First, I had to pray that I would take orders. Then, I had to learn to be a servant. No, scratch that, I am learning to be a servant. I was a man who was instructed in both business and religion. In both, I was compensated. I was trained up to train others. I was a man who had honor.
Because I found the pursuits of business and religion empty, I drew near to God and still draw near, I found and I find myself being emptied of all that I became. I have found and find that pursuit to be both rewarding and humiliating. But the peace that it has brought is amazing; truly the paradox of the event.
Serving others is not easy. Some say, “If you feel bad, go minister to the dying, the less fortunate.” But you see that is not servitude. When you have the freedom to choose whom you will serve, that is not servitude that is mastery. Even reasoning to yourself: no one is helping them, so I’ll do it – that circumstance is not servitude, it is mastery, just yourself being the master.
In Christ, servants are called to do God’s will, in Messiah, to serve as God sees fit. That makes him the master and the disciple the servant, even Jesus was a servant. God sent Jesus to serve.
While Jesus is a “master,” he is no master, except a master teaching servitude. Some ministers will deny what I say. Other ministers will pay lip service to what I say.
But when a Christian chooses their own path in God, they have played the role of master, not servant. That can be seen in every corner-store church, not just the organizations of self-help and prosperity, because churches, all across the U.S. preach choosing your own path in Christ, preaching it as “work out your own salvation”. This is because Americans believe in self-determination, self-government, and self-will, as such Americans are a poor example of following orders.
Orders are given. Orders are followed. Orders can and should be questioned, even divine orders (Genesis 18.17-33, Exodus 32.7-14). But as I have been finding, God does not necessarily expect us to understand his purpose of his orders. But it’s important to recall that God’s orders are NOT human orders.
Because God is not human that is where revelation takes place. That is where trust is demonstrated. Truly we see through a glass or see in a mirror not knowing what we are seeing, but in time we will be able to understand.
A person is God’s servant, when God says “I want you there.” and that person goes. A person is God’s servant, when God says “I want you to do this.” and that person does.
Being a servant is rewarding, but it is NOT easy. I am learning to be a servant.
Blessings and Shalom
P.S. – based upon the nature of the content, I feel it necessary to make this note. I write from two major contextual ideas. One, the New Covenant, which Jesus said is encapsulated in loving God and loving others, which Paul said is summed up in the phrase love your neighbor as yourself. Two, a citizen of Texas and the United States, evaluating Christian behavior from the experiences of working in business occupations, including pulpit minister, and interacting with Christians of all labels of various knowledge and skills, in various positions within their respective churches/congregations.