Monday, May 25, 2015

John 13:13-15 -- On Servant Leadership and Dirty Jobs

"Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."
John 13:13-15

This is an interesting story.  Jesus gets up from his place at the table, dresses himself in a towel as though he were a servant, and washes the feet of all the disciples.  Then he changes into his regular clothes again, and resumes his place.
There is a lot going on here, but the idea of being a servant to those you lead is the one that I am going to address.  I think that this is a powerful lesson in that context.  The disciples followed Christ.  They stayed with him and learned from him, and in these verses he acknowledges that, and says, yes, I am your leader.  And yet, as the leader, he chose to serve and do a probably very dirty job, since there were no paved roads back then.  It was a job that probably everyone considered beneath them, and yet he did it for them, as their leader.  And then he asks them, and us, to do the same for each other.
We're all leaders in different things and in different ways, and often when we are in charge of something we feel that we are above doing the "dirty work" or the icky stuff.  We get to delegate.  We have people to do that for us. :)  But Christ got in there and did the low job, serving directly rather than just talking about it.  Lots of symbolism here about cleanliness, and also I like the idea of learning to accept service.  Peter protested that Christ would wash his feet, and Christ told him that if he didn't allow it, he had no part with him.  Kind of like insisting he allow him to serve.  Which is interesting, and I think instructive.  As we learn to serve others, we also have to learn to accept service and be grateful for it, rather than insisting that we don't need the help.
Christ asks us to do as he has done.  So, today, let's work on our humility.  Let's be willing to serve those we lead.  Let's be willing to get in there and directly interact and get dirty while getting to know people.  Let's not insist on high positions as an end in themselves, but let's focus on the reason for all of it: helping each other to be clean.

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