A book that was fairly recently (well, ok, maybe 8 years ago–but stay with me) made into a movie is the story Eat, Pray, Love. The premise for the book is a disillusioned woman in an unhappy marriage relationship who leaves her husband and travels the world, to “discover herself.”
Sony Pictures gives this brief synopsis of the movie: “In her travels, she discovers the true pleasure of nourishment by eating in Italy; the power of prayer in India, and, finally and unexpectedly, the inner peace and balance of true love in Bali.”
To put it bluntly, a woman travels the word and finds “happiness” in food, meditation, and short-term, uncommitted sexual (and adulterous) relationships. In reality, this woman sought and apparently found her happiness in pursuing selfishness.
The world around us unfortunately promotes this selfish, me-driven attitude, saying that you should pursue whatever kind of a life makes you happy. The problem is that people do not really know what will make them truly happy. It does not really work out like this woman on the movie screen.
The truth is that selfishness—though it may bring a kind of happiness temporarily—does not really bring lasting and true satisfaction of any kind.
In the pursuit of happiness people often find that satisfaction is always at an arm’s length; and that a little more is never enough. Pursuing a life led by one’s own idea of what will make them happy leads a person to continual dissatisfaction, as they will eventually find that they are filling a bag that is full of holes (cf. Haggai 1:4-6). It will never become full. It will never be enough.
It will never be enough because that kind of a life is not what we were placed upon this earth to live. We are not meant to live to our own selfish means. We are meant to live to love and serve others. We are meant to reflect the attitude of Christ.
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).
Interestingly, as much as Christ is our example, there is only one time that He said Himself that He was our example—a time when He was as selfless as one could possibly be.
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14, 15).
Upon examining the account of Jesus that comes from John 13, I see an example of service and selflessness that goes far beyond the kind that the world requires and certainly presents a challenge for me to live up to.
So, turn your Bibles to the book of John chapter 13, open your hearts and examine with me the kind of attitude of mind we should all be striving to achieve.
Jesus was willing to serve regardless of the time.
We read at the beginning of this chapter that Jesus knew what He was about to suffer (v.1, 3).
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
We need to realize that even though Jesus was God come as a man, He was still deeply affected by the thought of the pain and suffering He was going to experience. It was going to be painful, and as a man He did not want to endure that pain. It is not true that “He had no tears for His own griefs,” as the song says. He went through mental anguish thinking about His death and what He was going to suffer (Matthew 26:37-39).
If there was ever a time when Jesus could have used the situation as an excuse not to serve, this certainly would have been it.
Yet, though He knew that He was about to suffer and experience a cruel death on the cross; He still took the time to teach the disciples a valuable lesson. Jesus was willing to lay aside His personal feelings and use every opportunity to help others.
What should our attitude be?
We should always be willing to serve others, no matter what we are going through or what situation we are in.
The world will lie and tell you that there are situations during which any kind of behavior is acceptable, during which no one’s needs come above your own—such as when you have had a bad day, you are tired, you are sick, or when a loved one has died.
Is it surprising to you that I have said this is a lie? Unfortunately the world has packaged selfishness in a pretty, attractive and easy-to-be-understood box; but the truth is that if the Lord has told us one thing, then the opposite is a lie.
We need to remember that—regardless of what everyone else is saying—Jesus, our example, was always willing to help and heal no matter His emotional or physical state (Matthew 14:13-16).
We are to never grow tired of doing good (Galatians 6:9). Do not let an opportunity to do good slip you by because you were having a bad day, or were “not in the mood” (Galatians 6:10).
Jesus was willing to serve regardless of the task.
Jesus had the right to ask others to wash his feet, but was humble enough to go ahead and complete the task Himself (John 13:4, 5). The task of washing feet during this time usually fell on the lowest of servants, and was certainly not a task for a Master Teacher.
“Jesus [...] rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:3-5).
Peter recognized the fact that Jesus was far above this role that He had assumed, and was indignant at the idea of Jesus washing his feet (v.6, 8). Jesus told Peter that there was a purpose to His washing their feet, which He would explain later (v.7).
Jesus was willing to lay aside His rights in order to serve others and show them a good example (v.13-15).
What should our attitude be?
We should be willing to serve others no matter what that means we have to do. Some tasks are unpleasant, but they need to be done nevertheless. Is washing feet a pleasant thing to do? Does one start the day saying, “I sure hope I can wash some feet today?”
Well actually, maybe a pedicurist does. But then, I have never understood why anybody would want to be a pedicurist.
Anyway, regardless of what it is we find enjoyable, there are things that are generally considered undesirable jobs. The kind that one thinks of, “I hope I do not get chosen for that job.”
How about volunteering for that job next time? Take the one that no one wants. Take the one that you do not want. Volunteer yourself for the dirty jobs.
No task can be beneath us if Jesus Himself took on a task befitting the lowliest servant (John 13:13, 14). Jesus looked around and saw a need that needed to be filled and a lesson that needed to be taught. Always seek to fill the needs of those around you and show them Christ through your actions.
Jesus was willing to serve regardless of the target.
Jesus knew He was about to be denied, abandoned and betrayed by those in the room with Him, yet He still washed their feet (v.11).
Think about this for a moment:
- Peter was going to deny Him (v.38).
- Judas was going to betray Him (v.2).
- All the disciples were going to flee from Him (Matthew 26:56).
Despite all this, Jesus was willing to lay aside the wrongs these people were going to do and see them as souls—souls that needed someone to teach them the right way to act.
Incredible, isn’t it?
What should our attitude be?
As hard as it may be at times, we should be willing to serve others regardless of what they have done to us.
The world believes that we do not need to be kind to those who are not kind to us, but Jesus taught us a different way to be. I love the following verse, because it is so radically different from what anyone around us would say to us if we asked their opinion:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:32-35).
We need to realize that as much as anyone has done to us, they certainly have not hurt us as much as these men were about to hurt Jesus.
We need to be able to see each person as a soul, and serve them so that we may save them.
- Pray for those who treat you badly (Luke 6:28). This really works. Whenever I catch myself thinking badly of another person, I remind myself that that person needs to go on my prayer list. I then pray for them—for time, for opportunity, for something in their lives that will help them to change if need be. It is hard at first, but it soon becomes difficult to think badly of a person you are praying for better things for.
- Go out of your way to be kind to those who treat you badly. I have heard of people who have changed others opinions of them completely—simply because they refused to let that person’s behavior determine their own. Also, I find that when I am focused on serving a person who has hurt me, I feel much more kindly towards them. Be the stronger person. Do not allow them to change the way you behave. You will benefit so much more than you can imagine, gaining the peace and patience that only a heart of selflessness can bring.
If Jesus served the people who were going to betray Him to be crucified, then surely we too can learn serve others no matter who they are or what they have done to us.
Though the world may teach that we should do “whatever makes us happy,” we need to be more like Jesus and be willing to:
- Lay aside our personal feelings and needs—always being ready to use an opportunity to help others.
- Lay aside our rights in order to serve others and show them a good example.
- Lay aside the wrongs people do and see them as souls—souls that need someone to teach them the right way to act.
I like something that my husband said during a sermon once:
“The church is not about me, it is about Him [Christ], it is not about what I can receive, but about what He has already given; and what I can now do for others to bring Him the glory.”
We give our life in service because if our Lord and Master could bow down to wash His disciples’ feet, we can also bow down to help our brethren (John 13:14-15).
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