Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:1-3)
Humility is a challenging concept in a world which teaches and promulgates the exact opposite. We only need to look at the ‘self-help’ or ‘people-devopment’ material that is available to see this clearly illustrated. The world raises leaders, achievers and winners. From childhood, competition is encouraged, along with striving always to be better, stronger, faster, or cleverer than everyone else. Sadly, while the idea is not fundamentally bad, it has the inevitable result of drawing boundaries, of creating separation and, tragically, of infusing life with a sense of failure when expectations don’t reach the mark.
God’s Word stands in stark contrast. Thoughout the Bible, we find contrary teaching that sets the logic and aspirations of the world upside down. Consider the beatitudes, which effectively challenge the world-view head on. Or that he who is last will be first, and if we want to gain our lives we must first lay them down, and to live we must first die in Christ. I’ve come to believe that one of the keys to understanding Scripture is to first accept that that the wisdom of the world should be thrown out the window, and that God’s wisdom will always confront the expectations of the world.
As our Saviour-King set aside the glory and majesty of heaven – His rightful due – and humbled Himself for our sakes, He set an example of humility that very clearly defines what the Christian life entails. His humility encomassed humiliation, physical, emotional and spiritual torment, hunger and thirst, mockery and rejection, unjust punishment and, ultimately, death. His servanthood was total and complete. But, most significantly, He did not do it for the glory He would once again enjoy. He did it so that we could one day share His glory. This truth contains the kernel of true servanthood.
The servant-heart in Christ does not serve with an eye to later gain. It doesn’t serve with expectation of future reward or recompense, or to make itself noticed by others or to gain approval or a reputation of spirituality. Servanthood is the pursuit of unity. The servant-heart is one which lays down self in an attitude of sharing. Whatever accolades or recognition that may be garnered along the way are irrelevant, and are in fact for the body, not the individual. The servant-heart recognises that unity of the body is more important than the ‘success’ of the individual members.
In John 13, after He has washed the disciples feet, Jesus says this in explanation: If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me. While it does refer to us being cleansed and made righteous in Christ, He clarifies this further in the following verses: If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
To understand, consider this: What would be result if every member of the body of Christ functioned in the simple humility of the servant-heart, if we adopted the nature of a servant towards one another, and constantly humbled ourselves rather than looked to our own advancement? Unity would, undoubtedly, prevail. Gone would be the manipulations and expectations of personal pride and self-seeking. There would be no more feeling threatened, or defending our positions, or seeking to outdo another, or coveting this ministry or that reputation. If we all lived to serve the other, and they lived to serve us, there would be no room for personal ambition or agenda’s. Unity would be the most powerful witness to Christ in the church.
While the cross is a rich and multi-layered truth, the very truth of salvation to all of us, underlying this is truth that all Christ did was to enable us to share His glory, His nature, His life and His relationship with the Father. This is the example He lived for us in washing His disciples’ feet. He did this so that we could see that His servant-heart was to make us part of Him. One of the ways that we partake of this unity in and with Christ is to have His servant-heart, to lay down our lives, our personal aspirations and achievements, for the unity of His body in Him, to live, like Him, so that others may share in that which He imparts to each of us.
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your selfless sacrifice. Impart to us Your servant-heart, and teach us Your ways. Stir in us the same love that You have for the world, and help us to live lives of joyful servanthood, loving one another through selfless serving. Help us to lay down the things of self in pursuit of the example You have so graciously given.