Countries around the world have various holidays and traditions to honor fallen soldiers. In the United States, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. To me, this day for honoring those American soldiers who lost their lives in the service of their country is a useful reminder to think more deeply about the very idea of selfless service.
Through my study of Christian Science, which is based on the Bible, I have learned that our capacity for selfless care of others can’t really come and go or belong to just some people because it is inherent in God, who has created each of us as His loving children – as a complete spiritual representation of God’s own eternal attributes, including tireless Love. And understanding that qualities such as patience and kindness come from divine Love itself is a firm foundation for selfless giving and open receptivity to good, because it brings to light a deeper sense of brotherhood, sisterhood, peace, and security.
This deeper sense of our relation to one another underlies counsel given by Christ Jesus to “treat others the same way you want them to treat you, for this is [the essence of] the Law” (Matthew 7:12, Amplified Bible). Jesus taught and proved that qualities such as meekness and mercy have the power of God behind them. They lift us out of a focus on self that would impede the selfless serving that he showed us is natural to us. (See, for instance, the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12)
The embodiment of these and other God-expressing qualities is the Christ, the divine nature through which Jesus healed and transformed lives beyond measure, and which enables us to find healing and transformation today. Where the Christ – as eternal and unchangeable as God Himself – is, self-interest and self-love that would hide God’s goodness vanish, and our harmonious and innocent nature as God’s child comes to light. In view of this, selfless serving is not only about taking steps outwardly, it can mean quietly praying to identify ourselves and others as God’s creation in a way that brings change and renewal.
There’s an episode in the Bible that I have found to be a helpful illustration of this deeper meaning of genuine serving. When Jesus went to visit two sisters, Mary and Martha, immediately Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, eager to drink in what he had to say (see Luke 10:38-42).
Martha, on the other hand, as the Amplified Bible puts it, “was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities.” She pointed out to Jesus that her sister had left her to serve alone, and asked him to tell Mary to help out and do her part. But Jesus, turning Martha’s burdened vantage point on its head, said, “Only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her.”
My take-away from this is that Mary chose to serve the Christ, to look above all to the divine nature that endows us with God-given qualities that we can never lose and that will always be of wider benefit than just to ourselves. We, too, can choose to prioritize listening to and acting on this divine influence, which then enables us to see the effect: more goodwill in our dealings with our neighbors and more harmony brought out in our own lives and the lives of others.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, wrote that the “highest happiness, that which has most of heaven in it, is in blessing others, and self-immolation…” (“Message to The Mother Church for 1902,” p. 17). We may have to keep working at consistently serving with unselfed motives, but every step in this direction will help us better recognize and bear evidence to God’s outflowing of good for everyone, everywhere.