Mutual, I’m sure

Everyone wants a label. A title. We want to be called by a name that defines us. That announces us. That lets everyone else know who and what we are. If someone doesn’t have a label, we immediately want to give them one. A singer. A banker. A president. A streetwalker. An addict. A hero. Once given, we are usually disinclined to offer another label unless that person makes a grievous error or heroic effort. Then the original label is nearly impossible to get back.

While being known for one big thing is not an issue, carrying multiple labels tends to be. It’s confusing. Are you one thing or are you the other? Honestly, we can all be, and should all be, more than just one thing.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:14-17 (NIV)

Through his teaching, Jesus gave his disciples all sorts of contradictory labels. Be a teacher, but be a student. Be bold, but be humble. Be a leader, but be a servant. Matthew Henry said that duties are mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren, and afford help to our brethren. 

By disrobing, getting down on his knees, and washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus displayed for all of us the example that a man can be both a leader and a servant. His entire ministry, he was leading people to serve. These things are not exclusive, but as Matthew Henry stated, mutually inclusive. All of these things that may seem contradictory are in reality complimentary.

One cannot teach without a willingness to learn. One cannot be bold without truly knowing what it is to be humble. One cannot lead unless they understand how to follow.

We can call Jesus Lord, and that wouldn’t be wrong. Neither would it be incorrect to call him Savior or Son of God. But we cannot stop there. Jesus doesn’t fit under just one label, but many. He is also a servant to mankind. He is a follower of his Father. And because Jesus did, so that we may follow his example, so should we be called by many things, and possibly the greatest of which being servants.

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

Matthew 20:26 (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17

Control freak

Nobody likes to hear the S word. Sin isn’t something anyone wants to or enjoys talking about. Even sinners don’t like their actions to be referred to as sin. It’s a dirty word. And so it should be. But just because sin is dirty, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address it or even talk about it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. So how do we deal with it?

We don’t.

He [Jesus] died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God.

Romans 6:10 (NLT)

Jesus already dealt with sin. He defeated it. There is no maybe about it. There were no little stragglers that escaped. Jesus got it all. He didn’t just win the battle, he won the war.

What does this mean for us?

Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Romans 6:6 (NLT)

There are days where sin feels mighty powerful in my life. I struggle with the temptation to give in—and often do. But if it’s lost its power, why is the struggle still there?

Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval.

Romans 6:16 (NLT)

Perhaps our struggle isn’t so much with sin as it is with control. Until the day we leave this earth, sin will always be an option. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean we have to allow it to control us. We should aim for the exact opposite.

So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:11 (NLT)

Romans 6 goes on to talk about how we should be using our bodies as tools to bring glory to God. A tool is something to be used, controlled by the one using it. Our bodies should not control us, but we rather, should control our bodies. When we give ourselves over to sin, we give up control. Likewise, when we give ourselves over to God, we give Him control. The less control we hold for ourselves—the more we give to God, the less likely we are to give it up to sin. In a culture where control is everything, this is a difficult thing to comprehend or even accept. Yet the benefits in giving all control to God far outweigh the disadvantages (because there are no disadvantages).

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

Romans 6:7 (NLT)

Sin doesn’t have to control us. We don’t have to try to control sin. We must simply give all control over to God. Easy in words, not so much in action. But I believe that the more we strive to give God complete control and ask for His grace in doing so, the more freedom we will find.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 75-77, Romans 6

Servant

Last weekend, we had a work day at the church. The men were lured in under the guise of a breakfast meeting and, after pancakes and sausage, were immediately put to work doing an assortment of tasks around the building. Most of these men are leaders in the church. Our head usher spent much of the morning hauling branches and trees into the back of a truck to be taken to the dump. Our sound man/bass player/greeter was put to work building lockers in the basement. A board member mowed and trimmed the lawn. And our pastor was armed with a chainsaw cutting down the last of the trees damaged in a winter ice storm.

For our church, this is normal. When there’s work to be done, the leadership team is first to arrive—no matter what that work is.

At the end of the day, when everyone was tired, sweating, and hungry again, I was set to leave and someone pointed out that one of my tires was rather low. The pastor was cleaning off his tools with an air compressor. I thought I’d see if he had the right piece so I could put air in my tire. Rather than hand me the piece so I could do it myself (which I was completely prepared to do), he got down on his artificial knees and did it himself.

For me, having my pastor do that extra small task of putting air in my dirty tire, was akin to Jesus getting down on his knees to wash the feet of his disciples.

We often look at the story in John 13 as Jesus humbling himself to bless his followers. He did do that, but that wasn’t all he did. The moment Jesus got down on his knees, he not only blessed, but he empowered his disciples.

In Jesus’ day, the caste system was alive and well. Servants served and lords lorded. Lines were defined and no one dared to cross them. But in order for God’s plan to work, Jesus had to put himself in the lowest position possible. The job of washing the feet of guests went to the lowliest servant in the house.

You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. And since I, the Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

John 13:13-17 (NLT)

By taking the position of the lowest servant in the house, Jesus not only showed great humility, but he put his disciples in a position greater than his own. Had Jesus remained sitting and allowed someone else to wash his feet, his followers would have always seen him as Lord and Teacher and never servant. But because they saw him as a servant, they could suddenly see themselves as master. Jesus was preparing them to hear his next words.

The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.

John 14:12 (NLT)

A servant could never do greater things than the master. In order for the disciples to do greater things than Jesus, Jesus had to become the servant, and they the master. Jesus not only humbled himself, but he empowered his followers.

When my pastor got down on his knees to put air in my tire, he was following the example Jesus put forth. What would seem to be a menial task that someone of a lower position should be doing showed me that my pastor—a man deserving of great honour and respect—is willing to humble himself and put those who serve under him in a greater position. By emulating Jesus’ humility, he empowers his volunteers to do greater things.

It is great to be a master. But it is better to be a servant.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17

Do something. Anything.

In Luke 19, Jesus tells a story of a wealthy man who went away for a time. He gave a portion of his finances to three of his servants. Each servant received a different sum. When the master returned, the two servants who had been given the most had doubled the initial amount. The one who’d been given the least had buried the money and returned to his master with the original amount.

Many would be inclined to think, hey, at least the last guy didn’t lose any of it. But what is that compared to the opportunity he had to double it?

‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘but to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, but from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.’

Luke 19:26 (NLT)

God has given us so much to begin with. Far more than the man who received the least from his master. Are we the first two who put it to use and make more from it? Or are we the weak man who feared the wrath of his master and did nothing but return what he started with?

Is doing something, anything at all, with what God has given us so difficult—even if what we have doesn’t seem like much? The story went on to say that the master would have been more pleased had the man put the money in the bank so it could have gained a little interest.

Many of us hesitate to do anything for the Lord because we perceive what we have as too little to bother. But how will you ever get anything more if you never do anything with what you’ve got? I’ve seen people in the church wither away because they refused to offer even a tiny portion of themselves. And I’ve seen others grow and thrive when they decided to set out with just a little.

If you want to see God do something in your life, you have to give Him something to work with. Rather than just give up because you perceive what you’ve been given to start with as too small to bother, do something. Do anything. Just use it.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 7-9, Luke 19:1-28