May 5, 2022

Learn About The Truth of Servanthood

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

A brilliant young Oxford don, H.A. Hodges, was an agnostic, and felt that it was not intellectually honest to profess a belief in God, since he was certain that nobody could really prove His existence.  But of course, he also acknowledged that the existence of God could not be disproven.  He just wasn’t sure and decided to remain neutral.  One day, however, he strolled down Oxford’s main thoroughfare and stopped before a store window.  His interest was captured by a painting, a rather simple one done by a Christian artist.  The subject:  Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.  Hodges, however, was gripped by the scene, and he said, “If God is like that then that God shall be my God!”  Conversions take place in strange ways, and that painting was part of the circumstances which resulted in his conversion to Christianity.

Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples was so out of character with his role, as the disciples met in that Upper Room to celebrate the Passover.  Important people didn’t wash feet–they had their feet washed.  The task of washing feet was assigned to a servant, a lowly act of hospitality as the cool water washed away the dust of the road.  No wonder the disciples were uncomfortable with Jesus washing their feet.  “No,” says Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”  But Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.”

Have you ever washed another’s feet?  Yes, I understand that the custom is no longer part of our culture, but have you washed another’s feet through a humble act of service?  “When you wash the feet of a leper,” Mother Teresa told her girls, “You are washing the feet of Jesus!”  Washing feet today may be translated into cleaning up after someone who is sick, or baking bread for someone who is elderly, or doing the shopping for an aged parent.  “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done…” Then, said Jesus, “Happy are you if you do these things.”  No wonder Brother Lawrence considered humble acts of service to be practicing the presence of Jesus.

May I share an observation with you about service?   Almost everyone recognizes the importance of service.  Being a servant like Mother Teresa ranks way up there with motherhood, God and apple pie or rice cakes.  I have noticed, however, that it is safer to talk about it than to practice it, and I’ve also observed that those who talk the most about the importance of being a servant seldom practice it themselves.  The great servants I have known are men and women who don’t talk about it–just do it.  Like Lillian Dickson, who did so much for the people of Taiwan, and Bob Pierce, who founded World Vision, and Lillian Thrasher, who worked among the outcasts of Egypt.  I could go on and on.

When one of the graduating classes of the Denver Seminary marched across the platform to receive their diplomas, Dr. Vernon Grounds, then the seminary president, presented each graduate with a gift.  A new Bible?  No.  An inspiring book?  Again, no.  Possibly, a plaque of commendation?  Again, negative.  He presented each person with a towel–a common ordinary hand towel to remind them of the example of Jesus–a visual reminder of the fact we are to be servants, not lords.  Those towels have now been carried all over the world by men and women who have learned that lesson well.  May God help us join the “order of the basin and towel.”

Resource reading: John 13:1-17.