“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:1–2 (ESV)
A quick review of our journey: January began with our considering the opening about how we want to be regarded. February considered, what does it mean to be “servants of Christ”? “What is a servant?” March followed with the critically important affirmation that Jesus Christ is Lord. It is essential to identify whose servant we are. April explored servanthood. Last month we looked at the motivation for our service. This month I want to look at the challenge of service. John 13:3–5 (ESV) “3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
Have you ever washed someone’s feet? Have you ever had your feet washed? I am not talking about a spa treatment or medical procedure with these questions. I’m asking about an intentional event that replicates Jesus’s ministry. I’ve experienced each twice. I found the washing of feet to be much easier than having my feet washed. (I’m weird, we all know) My difficultly with having my feet washed was although I knew I was giving the attendant the opportunity and privilege of following Jesus’s example, the “intimacy” of the act made me very uncomfortable. On the other side, I found it much easier to serve, even with the obvious discomfort go the moment. I acknowledge that a great part of the discomfort was rooted in the formality (church service) of the event. But the giving was much easier than the receiving, at least for me.
But here’s the problem in John 13:12–15 (ESV) 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. The real issue is this command isn’t about literal foot washing in the church. It is about meeting the real needs of one another even at the cost of self-abasement. We are commanded to serve (just as Jesus did) not for our benefit but for the sake of the recipient. Here’s one commentator’s description, “But He shows great concern that the meaning of true servanthood be well understood, that no one deem it beneath his dignity to perform the most menial of tasks for others. Ultimately, servanthood is a disposition of the heart and spirit, which expresses itself in concrete actions.”
How does one accomplish this? First, do we truly see the needs of others? To see their needs requires a degree of familiarity and involvement beyond the casual. Second, it requires that I do what actually meets their needs not just that I do something that makes me feel better. We have defined love as “doing what is best for the other regardless of the cost to me.” So I have to evaluate if what I’m doing is truly the best I can do for them. Third, I have to become vulnerable in supplying their need. Note that Jesus laid aside his outer garments before he began. He opened himself up for the encounter. He was authentically present in the service. Lastly, there was a real benefit bestowed upon the recipients. They were better off after Jesus’s service.
In the age in which we live, I suspect, service is despised to even a greater degree than it was in Jesus’s day. They had slaves to do all the jobs they didn’t want to do, we have hired help. Inherent human pride drives us (and them) to avoid any activity that doesn’t fit with our self image. “I am too good to serve” is the instinctive reaction of human pride. Jesus’s example and command strikes at the very heart of our pride. To be like Jesus is to be willing and available to see others’ needs and then to put off our self image so that we can meet the need to the best of our ability.
As I said, I’d much rather wash feet, than be washed, and you?
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible, Hayford, Jack W.