This week I’ve written about trust, charity, forgiveness, and even fatigue during Great Lent, all to express different understandings of the cross we bear for Christ. Today I wrap up our weekly theme with service to the Church. Service to the Church is different from charity because it involves those to whom you are eternally united through baptism. When we serve those outside the Church we are showing love for our fellow human beings, but when we serve the Church we express our duty and responsibility to Christ’s Church for the sake of the Gospel.
Saint Paul teaches, (you can read the entire passage below) “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6.10) Saint Paul makes a distinction between those in the Church, whom he calls saints, and those outside the Church. For Saint Paul, both are deserving of our service and love, but serving those in the Church comes with a sense of duty.
For those who have entered the Church, it is our duty to work to maintain their presence in the Church. If they fall away through sin or rejection of the Gospel, they are at greater risk than those who have never entered the Church in the first place. In the verses that lead up to today’s passage, Saint Paul says, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6.4-6)
What then can we think but to never stop serving those in the Church through various ministries for their salvation? If our lack of attention, or worse our improper attention, causes others to fall away from Christ and His Church, we will bear a certain responsibility. That is not to say we bear full responsibility, because that would take away their free will. (I wrote about free will earlier this week) We bear our cross in our willingness to serve those in the Church for their, and our, salvation, and God will not ignore our efforts. We are blessed by our service, even if others use their free will to depart, but we will also suffer the consequences of ignoring them. That makes service a cross worth carrying, don’t you think?
But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. – Hebrews 6.9-12