17 June 2014

Mutual Humility

Peter said to him, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." -John 13:8

In the final hours of his life, Jesus shared a meal and fellowship with his closest disciples. After they ate, he rose from dinner, tied a towel around his waist, filled a basin with water, and proceeded to wash the feet of his twelve dinner companions. When he came to Peter, he resisted Jesus. He was not about to allow his Lord to do something as disgusting as washing his feet.  That was a job for servants, not saviors.

In response, Jesus said, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me."  He could have honored Peter's request and skipped over him, but he did not. There was a lesson his disciples needed to hear. Theirs was to be a life of service to one another regardless of their station in life.

We often hear the words "mutual submission" as a model for how to relate to one another. That is a useful term, but as I was meditating on this story today, the words that stirred in me were "mutual humility."  Jesus' incarnation was the ultimate act of God humbling himself for the benefit of mankind, yet his earthly life was also one of humble servanthood. He was eager to meet the needs of the hopeless and the downtrodden.

In this story, I was struck by the interaction between Jesus and Peter. The incarnate Lord was serving, just as he always did, but Peter did not want to be served and so he resisted. In response, Jesus firmly told Peter that humbling himself and allowing himself to be served was a part of the Christian life and that would require humility.

I think it is much easier for Christians to accept the call to serve others (though we often fail at that too) than it is to be served. Allowing others to meet our needs feels weak, perhaps even humiliating. Yet what Christ is calling his people to is not just that we serve, but also a humble willingness to be served by one another.

The Christian life is not an individualistic life; it requires mutual humility.

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