Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Tenderness of the Towel

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus Christ

As we grow in Christ, we grow in Christ centeredness and a heart that often defers to the well being of others.
I’m on the road this week and have little to no Internet access to research a quote by John Stott; yet, if I attempt to paraphrase, it says that Christ comes to us in our self centered condition, makes us new, and grows us away from self centeredness and towards the love and service of others. I believe this is a true test of authenticity in our walk with Christ.

I can say all day long that I love you but unless I kneel to serve – or show a track record of serving you – then my words are hollow. The fellowship of Christ-Followers that I am joined to states it this way:

… being active in ministry often requires us to sacrifice by giving resources and ourselves in useful ways to meet all kinds of practical needs in the lives of others in our families, church, community, and world. These needs may be physical, emotional, spiritual, or relational; yet, we meet them, by God’s grace and in His name, as best we can.

Wishing or chitchat, without follow through, about the merits of ministry, even that which is well intentioned, is of little use if integrity and authentic Christianity is our aim. It is essential to “do ministry” – in effect “be the church”-and not simply “talk about theories of “ ministry if we wish to be faithful to the example of Christ and the exhortation of scripture. Examine an excerpt from the Book of James:

JAS 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. JAS 2:18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds. “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline chapter 9, underscores the importance of the discipline of service. I especially like his thought regarding the contrast between radical (flesh based) self-denial and servant hood. “In some ways we would prefer to hear Jesus’ call to deny father and mother, houses and land for the sake of the gospel than His word to wash feet. Radical self-denial gives the feel of adventure. If we forsake all, we even have the chance for glorious martyrdom. But in service we must experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves. Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial.

At the outset of Chapter nine, Richard Foster points to the scene where the disciples were arguing amongst themselves as to who was the greatest. Can you identify? Have you seen similar glimpses of pride, self-reliance, and boasting in Christian circles? Sadly, we still do. In the case of the disciples, Jesus intervened. “Then Jesus took a towel and a basin and redefined greatness.” May we submit to his lead and may we lead others by faithfulness to His example and with the courage to be least. For in doing so, we find greatness (re-defined) and humility before our King.

As I close, let me pinch the following song lyric from Paula at Listen In. I really like it and have always appreciated Michael Card’s substantive writing. This is no exception. Let it serve as sort of a musical postlude to this week’s post.

And the call is to community,
The impoverished power that sets the soul free.
In humility, to take the vow,
that day after day we must take up
the basin and the towel.

In any ordinary place,
on any ordinary day,
the parable can live again
when one will kneel and one will yield.

Our Saviour Servant must show us how
through the will of the water
and the tenderness of the towel.

From “The Basin and the Towel”
by Michael Card

Grace to you in Him, and God bless.


Anonymous Paula said...

Hi, Thomas. Michael Card is so quotable. This song one of those examples; the reason his songs are so 'quotable' is becaue he draws from scripture so many times. His knowledge of the Bible just astounds me. I met him in Indiana last winter and he is a meek and gentle man too.


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