We know that serving others is something running through the entire biblical narrative. It’s woven throughout the whole thing. To love is to selflessly serve others amongst other things.
It can certainly be one of the toughest things to live out. But we can’t get away from the teaching. Jesus came to serve. He didn’t come to condemn but to save and He saved by serving.
One of the most amazing (and hardest) things we see in scripture is Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Washing someone’s feet was just about the lowest thing someone could do in the culture at the time. Jesus went to the extreme to show us how we should serve and He didn’t do it just to prove a point. He did it because He wanted to do it. He loves us so much that it’s His desire to serve us in that way.
This can be very difficult to understand especially when we understand that to see Jesus is to see the Father. We know Jesus is the exact representation of God. So to see Jesus washing our feet is to see God the Father washing our feet.
For many of us that picture of God doesn’t mesh with the perception of God we have grown up with. But the truth is if that picture of God makes you uncomfortable then there is a problem with the reality of God you have accepted.
So we are to be imitators of Christ therefore we are to serve each other. But something I have noticed makes me think we have missed something. I have experienced teaching and talks about serving and while I can’t say every time, most times being a servant is related to serving those in authority over us.
Sometimes it seems like it’s very difficult to lovingly serve those in authority over us. Also, it just kind of makes sense to relate serving with those in authority. But if that’s the only way we relate it, talk about it, seek to understand it, we are missing half of it.
As Jesus clearly showed being a servant doesn’t mean just serving those over us but also those under us. Throughout the New Testament we learn that whenever power is used to rule (whatever that might look like) we are missing it. Instead, this idea of mutual subjection runs rampant throughout. One example is in 1 Peter 5 in which Peter warns the spiritual elders and leaders not to be domineering, coercing, overbearing or dictatorial but instead to lead by their life’s example. In fact, Peter tells them that if they lead this way they will receive the conquerors crown. How about being a conqueror by serving? In other words, instead of making people serve the poor go out and serve the poor yourself and invite others to come along if they want.
What might this look like in our lives? What would it look like to serve your kids, employees, students or whoever else you feel superior too or that you have power over? How could that change the way you treat and interact with them?
In order to truly be a servant as Jesus was we must begin to serve those under us just as much as those over us.
Jesse and Kara Birkey