10The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters. 11For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. 14We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. 16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
The Baptismal Covenant of the United Methodist Church outlines clearly what is expected of a church member. We have been investigating those covenant vows. Two weeks ago we saw that “choosing sides” means we reject sin and receive Christ. Last week’s installment was “choosing faithfulness” and we discovered that means we separate ourselves from that which separates us from Jesus.
The next three messages are really a “series within the series”. The messages are all based upon the question asked when one is received into the local congregation:
As a member of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts and your service? 
Prayers, presence, gifts and service are so entwined and interdependent upon each other that, as we deal with “service” today and the others in the coming weeks, we will be unable to really separate them. So it will be three weeks in a bee hive, circling around four topics that are part of one larger reality, being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s dig-in!
What I would like you to notice is the difference that occurs now between the previous messages and the next three. The first two messages were about separation. In choosing sides we receive Christ and reject sin – In choosing faithfulness we choose separation from that which separates us from Jesus. These two are both about our personal battles against sin and for relationship with Jesus. Now the shift is away from self and personal salvation; the lens focuses-in on others when it comes to prayers, presence, gifts and service.
In our passage John says very clearly what you will find when you encounter a true child of God – people who are obsessed with doing right and loving people. This is what serving others is about; you love God by loving people.
This morning I would like to show you three brief film clips that illustrate service, and what it means to faithfully choose to serve Jesus.
1. It means turning knowledge into action
In Walking Across Egypt Mattie Rigsby is a widow who buries herself in church. One day she finds out about an incorrigible boy who is locked away in a prison for juveniles. She hears a sermon on “the least of these” and can’t sit on the pew anymore until she does something about him. [film clip]
Like Mattie, most of us have been in church for a good portion of our lives and can quote scripture from several different versions of the Bible; our problem is not a lack of knowledge – we have a lack of action. There is a walk to go with our words.
2. It means turning faith into touch
Father Damian was a priest in the Hawaiian Islands. In 1872 lepers were exiled to one of the islands (Molokai) to isolate them from society. No one would go there because it was a barren and miserable place. Damian’s faith would not let him allow suffering to go untouched. [film clip] 
Your parents likely taught you good manners. It certainly started with “no, no, don’t touch that – put it down”. On Wednesday I called my daughter Carrie in Florida to check on four year old Micah’s progress in the new event called “preschool”, and to see how his toddler brother, Jonah was taking to playing alone. As Carrie picked up the phone she said, “Hi Dad….Jonah DON’T…Sorry Dad, I’ll call you back”…click!
There are enough untouchables in our world, our county. Culture and ignorance gave them their identity…illegal alien, poor, trash, etc. Father Damien had the instructions from his bishop – don’t touch! We shouldn’t listen to that either!
3. It means turning opportunities into joy
Brad and Franky find a suitcase load of money in their apartment’s attic. Unfortunately they don’t know it belongs to a bank robber. They become a Robin Hood Gang  trying to use the money to help people. [film clip]
Obviously helping others is something you should do with legal resources (much safer that way!). But the point is untouched that the boys took the opportunity to help others…and that is where the joy comes in. There is something of a boomerang effect in giving joy away…the more you do it, the more you seem to receive it!
Arthur Ashe was a tennis super star who found a greater love than professional sports – he found serving others. When called a hero he said: True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.
Today’s text says that our love is the seal of our service. Our movie personalities have echoed that theme.
Mattie Rigsby took the knowledge she had about serving and began to serve a bad boy
Father Damian took faith in one hand and a leper in the other
The Robin Hood Gang took the opportunity of a lifetime and gave it away.
Jesus taught us that –
- he had the knowledge of God’s beautiful heaven and glory, and he turned it in for a cross
- he had the power to create the universe, yet he took upon himself the sin of the world.
- he had the prerogative to spend eternity untouched and yet he gave himself without hesitation for you and me.
He chose service! And that’s why his followers choose service.
1] The Baptismal Covenant, United Methodist Hymnal, (Nashville, The UM Publishing House, 1989), 34.
2] Walking Across Egypt, 2000 Mitchum Entertainment,
3] Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999)
4] The Robin Hood Gang, © 1997