Last week I was at the bus stop, waiting for a ride to work. At first it seemed to be a day just like any other. The bus was running late, and to make up for time I decided to check a few emails on my phone. However, just as I began to open up the “outlook app,” I heard a confident voice speak up behind me.
“How are you doing today?”
I inconspicuously tilted my head to see what the disturbance was, with the prayerful hope that those words were not directed at me.
“Are you having a good morning?”
As I turned more fully around, my eyes met the gaze of a man in his early thirties. Smiling, I quickly glanced to each side, making sure that there was no one else around. There wasn’t.
I responded pleasantly to the man, and he began to engage me in conversation. It quickly became apparent that he had some sort of mental disability, although he spoke very well for himself. Next, he turned to a girl who had arrived and engaged her in the conversation as well. He introduced himself to us and asked what our jobs were. This resulted in quite a bit of chit-chat, although it must have lasted no more than five minutes. Finally, as the discussion began to die down and the bus slowly approached, the man said something quite unexpected.
“How can I serve you both today?”
His wording made me smirk. This was, as some would say, “Christianese.” He was referring to the numerous Bible verses, such as that in Galatians 5:13, that tell us to “serve one another.” It was an awkward question, although clearly well-intentioned. Didn’t he know that we would be parting ways as soon as the bus arrived? Perhaps the thought just simply did not occur to him. The girl and I looked at each other, a bit puzzled with how to answer. I did not know what to say.
Then, the answer hit my soul like lightning, and I stood convicted.
“You already have.”
The Lost Art of Friendliness
In an age of selfie-sticks and social media, it becomes no surprise that we are quickly beginning to forget how to engage with one another in person. Many have written about these detrimental effects in the past. However, it is important for Christians to realize that the consequences cut much deeper than i-phone addiction and quiet bus stops. More significantly, they stand directly opposed to Christ’s command to serve one another in love. Simple friendliness may be the easiest and most available method of serving…but we are quickly neglecting it for our personal devices.
Serving, at its core, is the concept of “active selflessness.” This means sacrificing your perceived importance in order to display the importance of another. The apps that we constantly use on our i-phones in public places do the exact opposite (after all, just consider the term “i-phone”). Certainly, i-phones in and of themselves are not bad. There is a lot of good that can come from them. However, the problem is that they tend to magnify the sinful desires that already exist within us. They give us an outlet for which we can escape to our “own world” – but often at the cost of others around us. Yet, simply removing i-phones from our lives will not fix the problem (and I am not suggesting that we should).
If we truly want to serve those around us, even those we meet for five minutes at the bus stop, we must make a better effort to be friendly. Friendliness pulls people away from their own importance and forces them to recognize others. It acknowledges someone’s humanity by showing them that they are more than just another face. They are a soul worth getting to know. This may seem simple and somewhat pointless, but personal engagement can mean more than we realize. There are many people walking around with pleasant faces but hurting hearts. Many struggle with self-worth and have low confidence. A joyful conversation with them may be just what they need. Jesus even shows us that a simple discussion with a stranger could lead to salvation (just imagine him walking past the woman at the well while using an i-phone!).
In this way, friendliness does indeed meet the qualifications for serving…but it is only the first step. For those who cross our paths on a regular basis, we must make further efforts. After all, a Christian’s true calling is not necessarily to serve, but is rather to be a servant. This is a mindset – an ever-evolving analysis of how the needs of others can best be met. It is a lifestyle – not a task. The status of a servant – and their call to serve – does not change based on circumstances or location.
Sometimes, its impact can be most profound with a stranger at a bus stop on a cool spring morning. It was for me.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13
Simple friendliness may be the easiest and most available method of serving…but we are quickly neglecting it for our devices.