“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained.”
2 Timothy 2: 8-9
Here in this text Paul points to an important dichotomy, that of being chained and being free. As the Word of God is unchained, so too our Lord reigns in Heaven, free from the chains of death, just as he was at the time Paul composed this letter to Timothy. Paul can endure the chains, suffer, and wait in eager anticipation, only if there is another reality at work in his life. In this life he is bound, but he is united with Jesus, as are all believers. So we suffer with him, even dying to ourselves (v.11), because we will be exalted with him in glory. Our union with Christ is so strong that if we deny Jesus, as Paul tells us, then God will deny us, and if we are faithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself (v.12-13).
The gospel writer Matthew tells us that “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many” (20:28). So too we follow him into serving others, not because it earns us favor with God, but because we know the riches of his mercy. It is the natural outpouring of a penniless beggar who has been given immeasurable wealth. And because we know the one who has given us this wealth, and know of his trustworthiness, the pains in service or suffering are but a “light, momentary affliction, preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). We give of ourselves because Christ gave all for us. This is how, to use more of Paul’s paradoxical language, how we who are poor can be infinitely rich. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, but lest we forget how that impacts our world around us, we’re reminded to “love your neighbor as yourself.” We love not only neighbor, but love our enemies, and serve them not out of naiveté, but out of Christ’s love and wisdom, for when we were enemies of God, he loved us, and gave his Son to bring us into the family of God.
The world knows this truth on some level of course. Psychologists will tell you that nothing is more satisfying than giving of yourself, and yet we find it so hard to do! Perhaps this is because we are, as creatures made in God’s image, made to be in service of others, but corrupted by the Fall, we tend to be servants of ourselves. Remember that you are an eternal person with an eternal reward, and encourage one another to be in service of others, by helping a friend who is struggling or by working with your child in raking an elderly neighbors’ lawn. By doing so, we proclaim loudly Christ’s love to the watching world.