Service and Obedience. What is it about these words that makes us uncomfortable? When we hear them, something inside us rises up to rebel. If someone says "Serve" or "Obey", we want to say "NO!"
Service is helping or working for someone else, but it carries a deeper meaning in this particular context. Service, in this sense, means ensure that the physical, spiritual, mental, practical, financial, medical needs of someone else are met. This is not in the form of control, but support. In this context, Jesus served those around him by teaching, healing, feeding them. Parents serve children in any number of ways.
Obedience is compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another's authority.
Taken separately they can be tyrannical and oppressive, but when taken together, something amazing can happen.
Take the example of a parent and child. If the child knows that their parent loves them and provides for them, the child will trust the parent and obey them. This is especially important when it involves something the child does not understand, such as "Don't drink bleach."
The parent serving the child in this way is not a burden, but an act of love. Service is a natural part of being a parent.
The child obeying a parent is also not a burden, but an act of love. The child knows the parent has their best interest at heart, and obedience in this context gives freedom.
This model of service and obedience is used to illustrate a number of scenarios in the New Testament.
1) Jesus and His Disciples - As stated above, Jesus served those around him. He healed lepers, blind people, the lame. He cast out demons. He raised the dead. He fed people by the thousands. He even washed His disciples feet, one of the lowliest tasks a servant of that time could do. When His disciples obeyed Him, they experienced supernatural power and provision.
2) God and the Church - God serves the church through guidance, provision, spiritual gifts, wisdom and knowledge. The Bible says that God knows and supplies our every need. The Church's response is willing obedience, because that is the only way to gain access to the provision of God.
3) Marriage - "Obey" is rarely heard in marriage vows, with good reason; when did a groom last promise to "Serve?" If a husband cares for and supports his wife, this leaves her free to live her life to the full, knowing he has her interests at heart. A serving husband should be willing to do whatever chores were necessary to support his wife.
4) Church Leaders and Congregation - One of the ways church leaders are to be chosen, according to the Apostle Paul, is how they look after their family. A church leader should care for the welfare of his flock with the same care and dedication a parent does a child.
This is a powerful model. A business where the employer provides all the needs of the employees would be rewarded by the loyalty and commitment of those employees.
Service and obedience. Taken by themselves, unhealthy and oppressive. Taken together, a powerful way for building dynamic relationships.