Foundations: Back to School to Serve Your Neighbor
By Mark Buetow
When I was a young lad, I remember a poster showing a luxury home's garage full of high-end sports cars. The slogan on the poster read, "Justification for Higher Education." I couldn't wait to finish high school, go to college, and do something that would make me, if not mega-rich, at least well off enough to afford all the "toys" I wanted. I got a job in high school, too, so I could finally afford that pair of ridiculously overpriced sunglasses. Ah, hard-earned cash! That's what school was all about. But do you notice something? School was all about me! And as a Christian, "me" is the last thing our lives are to be about.
As school begins again this year, ask yourself, "Why bother going to school?" The answer? To serve your neighbor! First, there are all those neighbors who are your friends and classmates. They need you. They need help with their homework. They need a shoulder to cry on, someone to confide in. They need someone there when their parents get divorced and their lives come apart. They need someone to help them study and explain their homework. They may even need someone to tell them why believing in Jesus isn't stupid. In short, high school and college, even apart from the classes and learning, include a host of opportunities for you to love and serve those around you.
And the learning you do is for your neighbor, too. People need doctors and lawyers. They need artists and actors. They need insurance claims adjustors and accountants. They need financial advisors and journalists. They need software engineers and lab technicians, nurses, and maintenance specialists. And even if you don't head off to college, your neighbors need soldiers and airmen and sailors. They need people who can wait tables and work the factory lines and sweep and clean. In short, every vocation, every calling, every job is important, from the most glamorous and rich, to the most forgotten, minimum wage work. In each one, the Lord has put you or someone else there to do a job that helps and benefits someone.
Yeah, but we really just want to get a good education so we can be well-off maybe even rich some day, right? Well, yeah. That's why even school can become something selfish. That's why even the Lord's gift of vocation can get turned into just one more opportunity to put ourselves above others and to stomp on them on our way to the top. Repent! Repent of such selfishness if that's what you look forward to in life! And rejoice that when the Father told His Son to take on the vocation of Savior, Jesus did it gladly. He wasn't in it to get rich. He wasn't in it for fame or glory. He wasn't in it because it would gain Him some privilege or control over others. He did it in obedience to His Father and to serve His neighbor-–you!–-by taking away your sins. Your sins of being selfish. Your sins of thinking the world revolves around you. Your sins of desiring what God has for you only so you can just get more and more. All your sins--paid for by the Savior who won forgiveness for you on Calvary and rose again to give you everlasting life.
Because, above all else, your teachers and parents and friends and classmates now, and your future clients and customers and bosses and coworkers someday, need you as a Christian. One who recognizes that you are no more or less sinful than someone else, that you live in this world and this life by grace, that you speak the truth lovingly without judging, and that you are happy and eager to serve as one who does it for the Lord and for no one else. But most especially, they need you as a Christian to teach them forgiveness.
In the end, it is the forgiveness of sins that is the best work you can do for your neighbor. Christ has wiped out your sins and you know this because of your Baptism, His Word and His Body and Blood. What comfort for your neighbor to know that you won't hold her sins against her when she fails in her vocations and callings. And you, when you fail in yours? Jesus never fails in His. He's always and perfectly your Savior and by His forgiveness, the Lord only sees you as a perfect son or daughter, friend, and student. You are the perfect neighbor, perfect in your callings, because Jesus is your perfect neighbor.
You may be finished with school or have many years yet to go. You may come out debt-free or loaded up with student loans. You may end up super-rich or just plain struggling. But regardless, you are never less than a loving neighbor to those around you, using all you've learned and will learn to love and serve them. That's because you are never anything less than one of the Lord's dear and precious redeemed children. So welcome back to school in another year of the Lord's grace and peace in Christ!
This article was originally published on the Higher Things website in August 2012.
Rev. Mark Buetow is the pastor and school director of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in McHenry, Illinois.
Reflections: January 1, 2021This Just In: The Ultimate ResolutionReflections: January 2, 2021Reflections: January 3, 2021Reflections: January 4, 2021Video Short: January 5, 2021Video Short: January 4, 2021Reflections: January 5, 2021Reflections: January 6, 2021Video Short: January 6, 2021Under the Cross: Don't Look at the ListReflections: January 7, 2021Video Short: January 7, 2021Video Short: January 8, 2021Reflections: January 8, 2021Dean's List: The Catechism Really Is for YouReflections: January 9, 2021Reflections: January 10, 2021Reflections: January 11, 2021Video Short: January 11, 2021Helpful Things: Fundraising Essentials FOR YOUReflections: January 13, 2021Video Short: January 12, 2021Reflections: January 12, 2021Video Short: January 13, 2021Reflections: January 14, 2021Video Short: January 14, 2021Under the Cross: You Don't Belong to This WorldReflections: January 15, 2021Video Short: January 15, 2021Reflections: January 16, 2021Reflections: January 17, 2021Reflections: January 18, 2021Video Short: January 18, 2021This Just In: Martin Luther King, Jr.--The Man Who Had a DreamReflections: January 19, 2021Video Short: January 19, 2021Dead Christians You Should Know About: Saint SebastianReflections: January 20, 2021Video Short: January 20, 2021Video Short: January 21, 2021Reflections: January 21, 2021Reflections: January 22, 2021Reflections: January 23, 2021Video Short: January 22, 2021Dean's List: Jesus Hits the Spot!Reflections: January 24, 2021Reflections: January 25, 2021Reflections: January 26, 2021Video Short: The Conversion of St. PaulHelpful Things: Effective Fundraising Through Midweek MealsVideo Short: Suffering Doesn't Mean God Doesn't Love YouReflections: January 27, 2021Video Short: Woke Wednesday: Karma, Karma, KarmaVideo Short: Abortion and the Church's WorkReflections: January 28, 2021Reflections: January 29, 2021Video Short: What Goes On In Your Pastor's Mind About Closed CommunionFoundations: You Need Your Pastor More Than EverReflections: January 30, 2021Reflections: January 31, 2021
Reflections: February 1, 2021Video Short: Stretching Out To RepentVideo Short: Parable of Those Gifted in the VineyardReflections: February 2, 2021Dead Christians You Should Know About: Saint Blaise of SebasteSpeaking of Faith: The Liturgy Is Tried and True EvangelismReflections: February 3, 2021Video Short: Woke Wednesday De-platformingReflections: February 4, 2021Video Short: Hearing Law and GospelVideo Short: The Anti-Catholic ParadoxDean's List: Called to ServeReflections: February 5, 2021Reflections: February 6, 2021Reflections: February 7, 2021Reflections: February 8, 2021Video Short: Ears on the Sower... And the SeedReflections: February 9, 2021Helpful Things: Sex, Sexuality, and BaptismVideo Short: The Simple Definition of Faith That Will Rescue You From Your DoubtsReflections: February 10, 2021Video Short: Woke Wednesday: Wokeism and ChristianityVideo Short: What Your Pastor Thinks When Preaching the LawReflections: February 11, 2021Reflections: February 12, 2021Video Short: Valentines and LoveUnder the Cross: Valentine's Day StinksReflections: February 13, 2021Reflections: February 14, 2021Reflections: February 15, 2021Video Short: Lent is Almost HereVideo Short: Lent For Evangelical ChristiansReflections: February 16, 2021Welcome to Lent - Supplement to the ReflectionsVideo Short: How to Fast in LentReflections: February 17, 2021Reflections: February 18, 2021Video Short: Lutherans Aren't the Cult of LutherReflections: February 19, 2021