Make Me A Servant

Make me a servant Lord, make me like you
For you are a servant, make me one too

The Epistle of James used to make me uncomfortable. I think I felt this way because I grew up in a Christian tradition that tends to associate “works” with personal piety. So when I walked down the aisle to accept Jesus through baptism at 12 years old, I did so because I thought I was going to go to hell for cussing. That may be laughable now, but I was convinced that good “works” meant not cussing, being nice, and avoiding sex before marriage. I thought that the only way someone would know my faith is by how much I prayed and acted like a good Christian girl. The irony is that Jesus rarely spoke about personal piety and instead demonstrated that the gospel is good news for those who society makes the “other.”

To love my brother, to serve like you do
And through my service, I'll be just like you
So make me a servant, make me like you

Through the life of Jesus we are shown how value in a person is not dependent on their gender, ethnicity, or economic status- but because they are simply a beloved child of God. This is why I think the epistle of James is supposed to make us uncomfortable. James challenges us to see how solidarity with the poor and the oppressed should be the response to our faith in the gospel. The fact that there is a “go and make” in our calling may make some uncomfortable; and, I get it. When “works” becomes only about yourself or your reward then it is not truly the works of Christ. Afterall, Christ’s good news radically changed how to see community, love, and self. Through the Holy Spirit we cannot help but act on our faith through works of justice and love.  In some sense, our works do serve as a validation of our faith in the God who liberates the oppressed.

Despite what some may think (I’m looking at you Martin Luther), James was not denying justification by faith but insisted “that faith be made manifest in its complete form, for only then can it be considered truly alive” (Elsa Tamez, The Scandalous Message of James, 67). For Christians, the “complete form” of our faith is when we live out on Earth as it is in Heaven. This requires action not just lip service. This is why James insists that “faith by itself… is dead.” My favorite theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, says that justification “is not a unique event, pin-pointed to a certain moment in time. It is a process which begins in the individual heart through faith, and leads to the just new world. This process begins with the forgiveness of sins and ends with the wiping away of all tears” (Jurgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ, 183).

Open my hands Lord and teach me to share
Open my heart Lord and teach me to care
For service to others is service to you
Make me a servant, make me like you

So, no, the “works” James speaks about in chapter 2 is probably not about whether or not we should have sex before marriage or drink at that party. It's probably about what happens when we consistently walk past a person, who happens to be homeless, without recognizing their humanity, or when we stand by silently as someone bullies someone about their sexuality, or maybe when we talk behind the eccentric church ladies back- instead of seeing her gifts and calling as valuable and cherished. Forgive us, God. And start with me, please.

If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2: 15-17)

Sometimes, discomfort is good. Lean into it.

Jane Adams
MTS Student at Wesley Theological Seminary
Worships with National City Christian Church
Washington DC


She is not always completely with us.

In seasons, Mary* will join our Ugandan church on Sundays with smiles, profuse words and sometimes tears. She sits too near to us on chairs or sometimes sprawls out on the wrap she ceremoniously arranges on the dusty ground beside us. She always wants to hug. Repeatedly. In a sort of hang on and pull you to the ground kind of way.

In worship she vacillates mightily. She either dances exuberant and joyful all around the room or she weeps huddled in her chair mournful and loud.

Many, many times she steps onto the stage to ask for prayers. In the middle of the sermon. Or in the middle of a song. Whenever the mood strikes her. She is definitely not confined by expectations.

Pointing to her heart and head she will testify, “I am not okay. Too much pain.”

“I need Jesus,” she will whisper and sway while we pray on her behalf.

She comes and goes. As a patient at the government hospital’s mental health unit, she has received sparse and sporadic psychiatric care. Yet, somehow, she is making her way through this life. Broken and stumbling and steady on.

There is one Sunday with her that remains my favorite.

My husband and our third born had ridden off on a motorcycle earlier that morning to teach in a nearby village, which left me and the other three kiddos to organize and begin the town church services until Jeff made it to preach.

Most of us were late that morning. As I pulled into our town church land I was relieved to see that the other vehicles hadn’t arrived. I knew I could get organized before the crowd gathered.

I was surprised when Mary met us at the door. Her shoes were lined neatly by the entrance (a common and respectful practice in Uganda) and beside her worn plastic flip flops were the sturdy soled Keens that belonged to someone else.

I quickly took in the assembly space and was surprised to see an American smiling at us from the second row of chairs. The visitor, Kate*, waved at me warmly as Mary hugged me, tugging and pulling me into the tent while her exuberant “Praise God!” shouted repeatedly around us.

I returned Mary’s hugs halfheartedly feeling guilty that we had a visitor (an American) who had arrived to an empty building. And she was now walking barefoot on the concrete ground that had obviously not been swept for weeks. ‘What must she think of us?’ I muttered deep inside.

I smiled at our visitor and told her how welcome she was. I apologized for being late and thanked her for kindly waiting.

She replied, “I stayed because Mary was here and welcomed me with such love. She hasn’t stopped hugging me and made sure I was seated and comfortable. She is a very persuasive church greeter!”

Mary beamed.

I visited with Kate for a moment until it dawned on me that I was in charge. There were exactly six of us present and I felt a bit of pressure to meet some sort of schedule expectation that an American most surely had.

Taking her seat next to Kate, Mary continued grinning at me her face eagerly blissful.

And I stepped onto the stage.

Jeff was delayed in the village longer than expected that day so I continued with prayer, scripture and teaching to our gathering of only a few.

Later as we were saying our goodbyes, Kate expressed generous appreciation for our worship together while Mary wrapped her arms tightly around my waist smiling at me victorious over our obvious Sunday success.

A Sunday gathering in place because Mary was present and available first.

She was really the one who taught us all.

In Christ the upside-down and backwards can offer the most consistent lead.

The early verses of James chapter 2 repeat this most astounding truth.

Mercy triumphs.

We are appraised by a law that GIVES FREEDOM.

Who you see as poor?

Theirs is the kingdom. It belongs to them!

They are chosen and appointed to be rich in faith.

Why do we even honor the other thing? The thing we pretend we have as security but it is in fact fading (James 1:10-11).

The very thing that actually takes from all of us.

Clothes and money are ridiculous guides!

Setting any one person over another makes losers out of all of us.

We all ‘have not’ something and every ‘have not’ is welcomed in Jesus.

Not only that but God is shaping beauty out of the unnoticed and the embarrassing and all the ones who don’t make sense.

What a tremendous relief!

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom…”

In any place we gather--


Each of us swaying to our own particular swirl of madness and confusion we testify:

“I need Jesus…”
“the kingdom is mine…”

Favoritism forbidden.

James tells us that God’s kingdom is in fact a specified and protected space for inadequate, meager and sparse.

A gloriously broken community made up of such as these.

The courage to be so obviously crazy may actually set us free.

Merciful God, let it be so.

*names changed to honor the precious

Cheryl Cash
Fort Portal, Uganda
East Africa