Where Do You Serve?
The most powerful classroom lesson on loving and serving one another was taught in a dimly lit room of a common house in first century Palestine. In the context, a dozen grown men with full stomachs and dirty feet, the night before Jesus died. John tells the story in Chapter 13, teaching us at least three timeless lessons on how to “Serve Together” as the Church in the world.
1. Put an Apron on Authority
It was before the Feast of Passover. Jesus knew he was about to depart from this world, Judas was going to betray him, the Father had given him all authority and his earthly ministry was almost finished. The first four verses of John 14 can be summarized like this, “Jesus rose from the table; laid aside his outer garments, took a towel and tied it around his waist”
This is not the set-up for a snazzy TED talk. Jesus, knowing that he is the sovereign Lord over everything and everyone, puts on an apron and prepares to wash the dirty feet of his disciples. Jesus turns upside down what it means to be a disciple. Instead of having power over pressing people down, disciples have power under lifting others up. The most powerful person on earth demonstrates that the last are first and the least are to be the greatest.
Jesus even said the most tiny, incredibly unimpressive mustard seed, once it is planted can grow into a tree so big that birds make it their home. (Matthew 13)
When the sovereign Lord, the highest authority of the universe washed his disciple’s feet, he turned upside-down what it means to be a leader and redefines the nature of relationships. Where the world has its ranks and high-profile untouchables, the Lord of the universe puts on an apron. This means that we, his people, are never too important for ordinary relationships.
2. Do What Jesus Did
Jesus served his disciples and tells us we are to do the same, love each other by serving one another. “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
Jesus gives us a picture of humility and then charges us to do what He does. This means one of the ways we demonstrate “Jesus is Lord” of our life is by caring for others in the same manner He has cared for us. We show ourselves to be His disciple when we humble ourselves and seek the good of others at our own expense.
Reality Check! Loving and serving others like Jesus will most always mean some measure of sacrifice and degree of suffering. It always costs something to seek someone else’s good, and there will be times when it feels like we’re not getting any encouraging return on our investments. In these moments, because of Jesus’s example, we know it doesn’t mean we turn and run, but instead press in and hold on. When the serving gets especially tough, we don’t serve less, we serve more! And in doing that, we go deeper in our relationship with Jesus.
John reminds us we don’t have to reach a certain level of goodness or holiness before Jesus serves us. Consider the owners of the smelly feet he washed. Judas was about to betray Him. Peter, loud and cocky, would soon deny Jesus. James and John had just been arguing about who got to be number two when Jesus became number one. Thomas would spout off and demand proof of His resurrection. In that upper room we get a capsule of Jesus total ministry. You didn’t have to reach a certain status goodness or perfection for Jesus to serve you. He washed his disciples’ feet knowing all along that once he arrived in the garden and was arrested, they would all scatter. He loved and served them anyway.
3. Practice the New Commandment
The instruction and example from Jesus now becomes a bona fide new commandment (John 13:34). The meaning behind our serving one another is our love for one another. The church loves one another in ways deeper than flesh-and-blood family.
Twenty Nine years ago this month, Dallas and I left a group of people who had served and loved us for years to come to a community where we knew no one. All we knew was that they wanted to follow Jesus and they appeared to love each other. They made us feel at home by serving and loving us like we had never been served and loved before. In large part, we have stayed here for 29 years because Pathway is a family of people who sincerely want to follow Jesus, learn how to love and serve the least of these, those who are far from God and one another.
When this happens in all of God’s local churches, all around the world, Jesus says all people will know that we are His disciples. Our love for one another and how we serve one another, is a witness to our identity as followers of Jesus.
This idea of a local church family serving and loving each other is hard for some to grasp. For years church programming has modeled in-reach and outreach as two different arms of the church, both extending in opposite directions, doing their own thing. But Jesus actually teaches and demonstrates one can’t exist without the other. A church that is “missional,” who wants to make Jesus known in their community, must be a church that loves and serves one another. And a church that is intentional about loving and serving one another can’t help but be a church that makes Jesus known in the community by loving each other and “Serving Together.”
Where do you serve? Check out First Serve at the Welcome Center this weekend to get started.