12 So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example – you should do just as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13.12-17)
I love the intentional reference to this in the Brethren in Christ logo through the basin and towel (see right). It seems to me that Christ is subverting the thirst for power. This is consistent with other instructions to the disciples, such as:
25 But Jesus called them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. 26 It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave – 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20.25-28)
Clearly, the power in the Kingdom is to be different. Of course, what Christ accuses the “Gentiles” of in this passage is essentially what the Pharisees were doing. They were using their power and authority to set up high ideals that the average person couldn’t attain. This solidified their position as the authority, and secured their continued power. Christ came and served. He washed the disciples feet. He walked with them daily showing the way of the Kingdom and explaining it to them. Ultimately, He laid down His life to pay our penalty, thus ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth. Then, He rose. After a very short time He went away again, commissioning (empowering) the disciples to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world. This is to be the way of the Church.
1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, 2 complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. 3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. 4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. 5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,6 who though he existed in the form of Goddid not regard equality with Godas something to be grasped,7 but emptied himselfby taking on the form of a slave,by looking like other men,and by sharing in human nature.8 He humbled himself,by becoming obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross!9 As a result God exalted himand gave him the namethat is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesusevery knee will bow– in heaven and on earth and under the earth –11 and every tongue confessthat Jesus Christ is Lordto the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.1-11)
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well. (James 3.1-2)
If that isn’t good enough, how about this reminder:
48 But the one who did not know his master’s will and did things worthy of punishment will receive a light beating. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked. (Luke 12.48)
Christ here is explaining the parable of stewardship, and I’m pretty sure this applies to stewarding those under our leadership as well. We should be very careful, since we have a clearly laid out model of leadership set out for us. We are without excuse is we fail to lead as the servant to all those “under” us from the world’s perspective. Jesus has really ushered in a “power under” form of leadership, rather than the model of exercising power over you. In Jesus model, I use my power to serve you and supply for your needs. In the world’s model, I use my power to make you supply what I need. This is true everywhere from marriage to the boardroom to the Church to whatever political power (if any) we may be granted as Christians.
Questions for thought:
- Where do you have power or authority?
- How can you use that power or authority to serve like Christ?
- Where have you used that power or authority to rule over others?
- Is there someone you need to apologize to for this unGodly use of power?
- Is there some way you need to “give back” power, at least for a time, in order to get the attitude of Christ?
Feel free to comment below as you wrestle with these questions, or if you think there is some area of obvious application that I may have missed!