Loving is serving, but not all serving is loving. The motives behind serving determines whether or not it is loving.

My wife and I recently participated in a small group study discussion on dating and marriage relationships. As each person shared his or her thoughts on how loving action differed from loving feelings, the conversation evolved into the motives behind loving. Of equal interest was the intense feelings on how marriage is not a 50-50 split. Rather, it should be 100-100 and nothing should be done with ulterior motives in mind.

The Out-Loving, Out-Serving Game

From that discussion, as well as Scriptural support, it struck me that marriage involves two people who out-serve each other. So, Karen and I decided to make a silly game out of loving and serving on a daily basis. Now we playfully (maybe even just a little competitively) try to out-love or out-serve each other—yet, with no ulterior motives or selfish intent.

It can be as simple as anticipating each other’s needs. For example, if Karen mentions she forgot something upstairs, I take that as an unintended clue to race upstairs and retrieve the forgotten item. Or if I casually complain about my aching back, she hears that as an opportunity to either massage my back or to bring me some Aleve pills. Of course, none of these clues are actual requests or “Honey-Do’s.” They are spontaneous, loving, serving actions in response to a loved one’s comment. All the “Out-Loving, Out-Serving game” requires is attentive ears and the desire to please (no, not like a dependent people-pleaser syndrome either).

When we convert this lighthearted exercise from earthly marriage to a relationship with Christ, faith takes on a new dimension. It becomes a matter of motives. No longer do we serve God out of fear, a sense of religious obligation, or even responsibility. Nor do we serve Him with the expectation He will grant our requests or extend His favor. Instead, we serve Him from grateful hearts that are thrilled to please Him. We love Him because He first loved us and gave His life for us (1 John 4:19). Additionally, we look and listen for opportunities to serve Him. We do this simply because we long to please the intimate Lover of our souls.

Christ’s Loving, Serving Example

As followers of Christ, we need look no further than His loving lifestyle and serving example. Come to think of it, He commanded His followers to love others (John 15:12, 17). That doesn’t mean merely loving a mutually loving friend, spouse, or family member. It means to also love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). This includes those who have a different political agenda and those who betray, mock, or persecute us. As recipients of God’s intense love, we also ought to love others (1 John 4:11).

So, what does this serving, loving lifestyle look like? Consider these verses with additional clarification in parentheses.

  • Through love serve (be a slave or in bondage to) one another. Galatians 5:13
  • Even Jesus did not come to be served (waited on), but to serve (wait on or attend to the needs of others), and to give His life a ransom for us. Mark 10:45
  • Jesus commands us to love (a direction of the will and finding one’s joy in something or someone) one another. Our love (affection, compassion, generosity, benevolence) for one another is our distinctive Christian characteristic. John 13:34-35
  • Be kindly affectionate (cherish or be fond of) to one another with brotherly love (fraternal affection or kindness), in honor giving preference (respect, deference, or esteem) to one another. Romans 12:10
  • Love one another fervently (passionately, intently) with a pure heart. 1 Peter 1:22

Regardless of the relationship—dating, engaged, married, family, friends, or broader social circle—may we love by out-serving. May we serve others without reservation or expectation. As the ambassadors of Him who loves us completely, may we love passionately and compassionately. Since God is the very essence of love, He considers out-loving and out-serving as outstanding.

Instead of relying on existing mindsets about love and loving actions, I challenge you to out-love and out-serve without ulterior motives or expectations. Try it today.