I’ve been binge watching some The West Wing this past summer. If you don’t know what The West Wing is, it is a critically acclaimed TV drama about the lives and services of fictional White House staff who work closely with the president.
One memorable episode “Let Bartlet be Bartlet” ended with the following scene:
The context is that the White House staff felt very demoralized due to a memo scandal, a decline in approval ratings, and having only one victory in the first year of the presidency. The Chief of Staff confronted the president with how soft he is with policy making while focusing too much on reelection than truly governing, knowing that some policies will anger or disappoint others with different interests. President Bartlet decided not to hide back in compromise anymore and let his staff become aggressive in pushing for their agenda, reminding themselves with variations of the following phrase:
“I serve at the pleasure of the President”
The use of this phrase actually originates from monarchy governments in which positions were held by the will of the king (New York Times published a piece on the origin of this language). According to the articles of the Constitution, the White House staff are appointed by the president and they are to loyally carry out the final deeds and decisions of the president. They can suggest a different opinion, but when the president makes a final decision, they are to carry it through. It also means that the president can terminate their positions early without reason if he chooses to do so. This is significantly different to other positions in government, for they are either voted in by the common people or approved by the legislative branch of government.
If you have a chance to watch the show by renting, streaming on Netflix, or even watching clips of it on YouTube, you will notice that these people mainly focus on the president and his policies, sometimes at the expense of their personal lives. The clip that I shared above is only a snippet of what the attitude these White House staff have with their position. The senior staff goes out of their way to approach other politicians to promote and persuade their proposals; the press secretary battles with the reporters and decides how to honestly share about White House happenings while maintaining good public relations; the speechwriters write speeches that enthusiastically put the president’s thoughts into words of command and persuasion, while monitoring how the language is being perceived to their benefit; even the personal aide and secretary to the president plan out the schedule of the day and maintain the efficiency on the president’s job. Simply put, their roles are all about elevating the president. They know that every move they make reflects on how the president is perceived. They are known as the president’s staff, but they don’t simple treat it as a position, but a privilege. Even though my political views are different from those of the show, the show is admirable in their portrayal of service for the president and to the country.
I can’t help but think of how this type of service and devotion is sometimes neglected when talking about a Christian’s relationship with God. On the basic level, Christians are saved by grace and faith in Christ. Many times, churches and even our own thoughts focus a lot on personal salvation and what God has done for us. We keep being reminded that God saved us and we are sanctified once and for all (Hebrew 10:10) adopted (Ephesians 1:5) , made children of God (John 1:12), heirs (Hebrews 8:17), God’s friend (James 2:23), and the list goes on and on. All of these things are true for the believer, but only focusing on what God did for the believers brings an imbalance view of God’s relation to Man. Only focusing on these things brings a mental image that we are equal to God, that we are “all good” and that nothing is expected of us.
If we lean that way, we neglect what Mark tried to convince readers through his gospel account: God is also our King. Though being saved by God make the Christian right with God, God still has authority and power over us. In fact, we owe our salvation to the power of God. Just like the White House staff, Christians do not simply have a title; nor are they cultural/generational “carry-downs”. They are appointed by God (John 15:16). They are elected by the works of the Triune God (1 Peter 1:1-2). God’s work on a person doesn’t stop at the moment of salvation. He continually works our hearts, continually sanctifies, continually teaches, and continually corrects; God sets expectation for those who are His people and use our God given gifts, talents, interests and desires to plan our part of His story. A Christian’s actions and thoughts are to focus on the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). And what gives glory to God? Our gratitude to what Jesus did on the cross and our desire for others to be saved and justice to be fulfilled.
One of Jonathan Edwards’ quotes on living the Christian life is this:
“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”
In living for the King, we are living a life of serving God both in season and out of season. It means that we DO NOT focus on fulfilling God’s plan and pursue a godly life God solely when we participate a “public” service for God, like local and global missions or serving in church, nor do we pick and choose when we seek glory to God. There will be moments where God calls us to specifically do something for Him, and we will follow the footsteps of Abraham, Samuel, and Isaiah, responding to our King “Hi Ne Ni,” (Here I am), but our lives belong to the King the moment we commit our lives to the Savior. God uses our whole life to serve Him (Colossians 3:23). If we do in fact belong to the Lord, we live for the Lord (Romans 14:8). We do not serve to gain fame or power, for our
reputation is second to how God’s name can be glorified. We are under God’s authority and we live for Soli Deo gloria (Glory to God alone).
Just like the White House staffers who are appointed and committed to exalt the President’s name and mission, if we are faithful followers of Christ, we will see and treat God as the King of Kings that He is. Whether we are at our hometown or in a foreign place, whether sharing the Good news or live a God-honoring life, our ultimate mission is to do everything for good and for the glory of God. We love others because we love our King (and because He loved us first). We are to be the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16), knowing that God and others will see our actions and deeds as a demonstrative image of who God is. We don’t wait till God calls us to a large mission trip. We live for Him the moment we become His and our lives become sacrificial for God’s usage. Redeemed by God, the motto of our entire (eternal) lives should be this:
“I serve at the pleasure of the King!”