Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 21, 2012


Learning to serve others is the key to a great life


As a child Betsy had a heart for God. Her eyes sparkled when the conversation was about living for Jesus. Her parents, devout disciples of Jesus and faithful leaders in their church, encouraged her to trust God.

In her teen years Betsy shared with me her desire to live as a servant of Jesus Christ. She had noticed that I always added the letters, “SJC,” to my name when signing letters. She wanted to know why I did it.

I told her my story of receiving a letter from Estelle Carver when I was a young preacher. I met Estelle in a retreat. She impacted my life in a powerful way. She was an English teacher but a devout Christian and a brilliant witness for Christ. Estelle was a friend of the evangelist, E. Stanley Jones. He asked her to teach a Bible study in many of his retreats.

Ms. Carver signed her letter “Estelle, sjc.” The next time I saw her, I asked her what the initials meant; she said simply, “Servant of Jesus Christ.” As she shared this with me, I knew instantly that I would sign my name in the same way for the rest of my life. And I have – for more than 50 years.

At first I felt embarrassed about doing it. For awhile I had to actually force myself to continue doing it. I feared my friends might think I was doing it for “show.” They will think me a fool.

But I overcame my fears and steadfastly signed my name, “Walter, sjc.” Now it flows easily as though it is part of my name. Early on I did it primarily to remind myself of my true identity. So it was more for my benefit than for the readers of my letters. It has constantly reminded me that this is my sole reason to exist – to live in the world as a servant of Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters more.

Elton Trueblood called Mark 10:45 the most revolutionary verse in the Bible. It is a statement by Jesus about himself: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” His words have humbled me often as I have struggled with the common temptation to have others serve me rather than live as a servant to others. To choose to live as a servant of others is indeed a revolutionary idea.

Rulers in the first century (as in our own time) had their servants. They expected others to serve them. Power and wealth meant the privilege of having servants. Jesus, however, turned this idea upside down. Though he was the Son of God, Jesus insisted that he had not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for others.

Jesus saw himself as a servant of God and a servant of others. He called upon his disciples to follow his example: become servants of others. “Wash feet as I have washed your feet,” Jesus said. Servanthood, then, is the unmistakable key to Christian living.

We may observe that Jesus did not rebuke his disciples for wanting to become “great,” as though desiring greatness is somehow evil. He simply reminded them that the pathway to greatness – in the eyes of God – is not in power, fame, or fortune but in serving others.

Serving others is seldom glamorous. It sometimes involves doing menial tasks that “servants” usually handle. Pride, the monster that seeks to destroy us all, can cause us to think we are “too important” for servant work. Such work is “beneath” us.

Yet when I think of true servants of Jesus I think of a man like Robert. He was never president of a bank or mayor of the town. He never served as a trustee or as lay leader of his church. He was simply available when someone needed help. He would drive someone to see a doctor, take a hot meal to a sick person, or visit a lonely home-bound person. Robert did those things not for pay or vain glory but because he was a servant of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of servants, Betsy, the girl I mentioned earlier, is now in her thirties. She took up the habit of signing her name “Betsy, sjc” when she was a teenager. But even more important she has followed her dream to live as a servant of Jesus Christ. She does that by serving poor children in Mozambique, Haiti or wherever Samaritan’s Purse ministry sends her.  

The bottom line of all this: If you want to live a great life then find a way to serve others. While it is not easy choice, servanthood is the key to living a life that matters. + + +