self-centeredness has no place in God’s kingdom

“The king turned to those on his left, saying, ‘Get out. You have no place in my kingdom if you want to live self–centered lives. I have watched how you live. You ignore strangers and those who do not fit in. You see people clothed in rags with no way to obtain new clothing, but rather than giving them some of the clothes from your overstuffed closets, you offer them only judgment. You see sick people, and rather than tending to them, you believe that they would be healthy if only they would take care of themselves. And what about the prisoners? You look down on them from your high horse, judging rather than loving them.’ If you do not yet understand what my kingdom is about, you never will. You want to make it all about you—a self–centered, self–glorifying kingdom. Mine is a kingdom built upon love and service. You may believe you have done well, but I see how you have judged and dismissed my image–bearers. If you insist on living in the kingdom of self, I will send you on your way. You can be the mayor of pain and suffering, tormented daily by your self–centeredness. Eternal life is with me, but you won’t get there if you insist on being king.”

Matthew 25:41-46, Letters to the Beloved

John 13:16

“Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”-John 13:16

Jesus had been instructing his disciples in the way of the cross, which is the way of service.  They had been watching him and listening to him, yet they also held on to a tiny hope that he would leave the way of the cross, reveal his power, and ultimately seek glory in an earthly kingdom.

They saw him as Lord (see Jn. 13:13), which in their thinking gave him every right to rule with power, but he didn’t, at least not in any way they expected.  When he said, “A servant is not greater than his master,” he was telling them, “You all agree that I am your Lord and master.  If that is true, do you imagine that your lives will be exempt from service?  No. I want you to live the same way.”  They were to be his messengers, carrying the good news of the Kingdom of God into the world.  The message he wanted them to share was one of the Kingdom of the cross, which is built upon loving service, not control.

Over time, his message gets twisted.  So much of modern Evangelicalism, at least to the West, has abandoned the way of the cross, preferring the way of glory.  Some Christians talk about how God will bless them with wealth and possessions if they just believe rightly, or speak the right words, but God’s kingdom is filled with other-centered servants, not self-centered consumers.

Jesus, In our self-centeredness, we seek after our own comfort, recognition, and glory, yet you have called us to something greater.  You have asked us to be messengers of love and service. Forgive our self-centered ways and lead us back to the way of the cross. Amen.

John 13:14

“If I then, your lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”-John 13:14

Those of us who live in the West in the 21st Century have no context for foot washing.  If we get stuck in wooden literalism, we will believe Jesus actually requires foot washing, but we always have to pay attention to his symbolism.

In the first century in Galilee, the process of washing feet was a necessary, but less than glamorous, chore.  The dust from the road would cake peoples’ feet, getting into the cracks and crevices.  Foot washing was a job for servants, so when Jesus washed their feet, he willingly took up a distasteful chore that was well below his status.  He became a servant, and he asks us to do the same.

In order to serve with the heart of Christ, we must know who we are.  We are those in whom Christ dwells; God’s beloved.  When we believe in our purity in Christ, we will not be afraid to get “other people’s dirt” on us.  We also must know that every person we serve is a divine image bearer and that alone confers dignity.  To love another is to love Christ.

Jesus, you humbly, willingly, and lovingly washed your disciples’ feet, which was one more example of your servant heart.  You have called us to the same way of love.  Open my eyes to see the beauty of your imprint in every face I see and to know the lengths you went to in order to set them free. Amen.