Read John 15:12-17
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:19 NLT).
I just recently watched a new film about Dracula, entitled Renfield. Well, just by the title alone you can tell that this film is really about Renfield, but Dracula features big in it because Renfield is Dracula’s familiar, or human slave, who can walk around in the daylight taking care of business for the count while he sleeps in his coffin. While definitely a gory film, it is mostly a dark comedy that explores the toxic, abusive relationship between Renfield and his master.
Prior to seeing this film, which stars Nicholas Cage as the age-old vampire and Nicholas Hoult as his eponymous servant, I had watched the trailers for the movie. In them, it shows the basic plot of the film, some funny parts, and some of the gory action that one will see if they choose to watch the film. The theme of the trailer, however, I found did not exactly match up to the movie. In the trailer, these words appear: “Don’t serve. Learn to live”.
That surprised me actually. Don’t serve? That seems to be rather bad advice. Service is an important part of being human. We serve our families, we serve people at our jobs. We serve our spouses and/or significant others and hopefully that is a two-way street. We, as Christians, are called to serve Christ and, if the trailer itself had the final say, it would seem as if the producers are drawing a comparison between Dracula and Christ or any other “master”.
Then I watched the film and I found that the message was not anti-service at all; rather, it was asking the question, Whom do you serve? The film does not state implicitly or explicitly that service ought to be avoided in order to truly live. Thank God for that too, because how could one truly live if they never, ever served anyone. That would be a very selfish life indeed, not true life.
True life is meant to be lived in love and love requires service. If we love those around us, we will serve them and, conversely, if they love us they will serve us too. So, the question is not whether one can truly live life if they are serving others, it is a matter of whom one is serving and the dynamic of that service. In the film Renfield, the eponymous character is serving an age-old vampire that lives in the shadows and feeds off of people as a murderous parasite. Renfield himself is there to serve his master’s needs and, as long as the needs get met, the old vamp is happy.
With that said, it is very much a one-sided relationship. If Renfield does not do exactly what his master wants, his master makes him pay…big time. He derides him, puts him down, makes him feel guilty for his failure to be a “good little servant”, and he kills anyone Renfield tries to have a relationship with. Dracula is your typical manipulative, bullish, abuser. The relationship between Dracula and Refield is not of mutual partners attending to and fulfilling each other’s needs, rather, it is that of a servant who must always keep serving to the master’s delight. That master never gives anything back, never cares for his servant, and certainly never gives in.
That, my friends, is not a healthy relationship and it is certainly not emblamatic of the kind of servanthood Jesus calls us to. Yes, Jesus is our Lord and we are his servants/disciples; however, our Lord also called us friends, which means we are NOT forced to serve like Renfield was; rather, the dynamic here is much different. Jesus gave us eternal life, free of charge. There is nothing we can do to earn eternal life. That is a gift given to us for free. Faith in Christ equals realizing and accepting that free gift. That is all that is required…our acceptance.
In Christ, we then serve as his disciples. Why? Because we are HIS friends and we desire to share the Good News of Christ’s salvation with people. More than that, we take on Jesus’ heart, we start to make note of the needs around us, and we try to fill those needs so that even “the least of these” are being shown love and inclusion. In other words, we serve because we have grown in Christ’s love. We serve because Jesus Christ, our Lord, first loved and served us. We have been served, therefore, we should serve others. Let us always be reminded of this as we joyfully join together in service of our Lord. Let us start serving and learn to TRULY live.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. Serve and thou shall be served.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Lord, thank you for all that you have done to serve me in Spirit, in Truth, and through the lives of those who have been a source of help to me. Lead me to serve others openly and willingly, thereby serving you and your Kingdom. Amen.