Churches centered on Jesus continually remind their people of this.
As humans, we struggle deeply with receiving unconditional love. We want to know why someone loves us and what we’ve done to deserve it. Unconditional love frustrates our desire to earn and accomplish. It challenges our pride. Sure, we like being loved, but we also like knowing we’ve proved ourselves worthy of it.
When your girlfriend in 10th grade told you she loved you, you wanted to know why. Was it the cool rims on your truck? The nice way you treated her? Or was it just your overall awesomeness that made her feel so strongly toward you? You had to know what it was so you could continue to do it or be it. If your father told you he was proud of you, you wanted to know what you’d done to earn his favor.
If we’re not careful, serving can become a way we try to earn the love we’ve already received from God, to “pay Jesus back” for His generous grace. While churches preaching the grace of God would never suggest that serving or volunteering contributes anything to a person’s salvation, a subtle tendency among us leads us to believe that serving is a way to stay “in good” with God. Therefore, unless serving is continually and unapologetically connected to the gospel, it can become a burden, a manipulator, a guilt reliever or a backhanded method we employ to just keep serving ourselves.