Today’s reflection on Philippians 2.5-11 got me thinking about the idea of servant ministry. It’s a term that gets used a lot – jokingly when the church toilets need cleaning, but often seriously too. But it’s also a term which I’ve encountered used oppressively, to justify why I should shut up and stay in the kitchen (not in my current context, I hasten to add): “It’s what Jesus would want. That’s what servant ministry means.”
No, it’s not. Servant ministry doesn’t mean ignoring the calling God has given us to carry out menial tasks. It doesn’t mean making ourselves subservient to other people’s expectations of what our ministry should look like. And it can’t be forced: that’s not servanthood but servitude, which isn’t what God intends for anyone.
In this passage from Philipians, Paul describes the model of self-emptying servant ministry which Christ has given us. It is a model which relies not on being powerless, nor on denying the power we have, but in choosing to say that the needs of others are more important than our own power. When we make our own power subservient to the needs of our brothers and sisters, we move one step closer to the total self-sacrifice which we see in Christ.