Some thoughts on the feeling that many have of the futility of service in a world that has a seemingly unending need–seemingly undefeatable evil…..
I think that looking at the meaning of the incarnation of Christ and of his whole life and passion from a particular perspective sheds light on this dillemma. In these, he is shown to humble himself in being totally obedient to God’s sending of him, and entering into the conditions of those in need, experiencing them himself. As he continues to serve these people, it becomes clear that the mission is too much–that the evil in the hearts of men (the very thing he came to remedy) is too strong for the numerically and geographically limited ministry he is doing. In the cross, he becomes swallowed up, so to speak, by the futility of his mission, and reaches the same end that those he came to serve and save all inevitably suffer: death. And yet all this was done in radical obedience to God, and in faith that God would not ultimately abandon him. And God will not abandon those who hope in him, those who have the loving obedience of faith in him. Because of Christ’s obediance in service, though all seemed to have been loss and failure, God granted him abundant fruits. Both for him and those he was sent to.
So for us to live this in our lives, we need to follow the pattern of Christ. And this is why we need to (as is often said), “put our hope not in this world but in the world to come.” If we put our ultimate hope in “what I (or we) can do” for the poor of the world, then we will be disappointed and despair because the work is too much for us (even collectively), there is too much evil in the hearts of men. But if we hope in heaven, which is God’s work of “making things right,” then we know that whether our service yields partial successes (for all successes in this world are partial), or yields failures, we can trust in God to bring about the fullness at the end of the ages. Rather than discouraging working in this world, hoping in heaven instead of in earth encourages working in the world. An activist view on life is thus seen to be surpassed by a active-contemplative life in God. Putting hope in this world ends up by dragging heaven down to earth, but putting hope in heaven lifts earth up to heaven.
We can do and are called to do great works of service on earth, individually and collectively, but it is an illusion to think that we can bring the kingdom of God in all its fullness into this world which is dominated by sin. Only God himself can bring it when Christ comes again. Having hope in God and in heaven is the remedy to the feeling of futility in service. And while the fruits of service are the beginnings of the kingdom, service–being obedience to God–makes the hope of THE FRUIT (which is of God’s fruit in Christ) secure.
– Mark John