When the dirty task (washing the soiled feet of proud disciples) had been completed, Jesus looked at his disciples and said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to also wash one another’s feet.” Christ is saying, “The attitude I have had toward you, you must have toward one another. My sense of calling must become your sense of calling. The willingness that I have exhibited, you must live out in your ministries.” What is that attitude? What is the commitment that must shape the ministry of every pastor?
You and I must not become pastors all too aware of our positions. We must not give way to protecting and polishing our power and prominence. We must resist feeling privileged, special, or in a different category. We must not think of ourselves as deserving or entitled. We must not demand to be treated differently or to be put on some ministry pedestal. We must not minister from above, but from alongside.
What is the grand lesson, the grand calling of this startling moment? Jesus says, “If you’re not greater than your master, and he has been willing to do this disgusting thing, you must also be willing. If you are my ambassadors, called to represent my will and way, called to be tools of my redeeming grace, then there must be no ministry task that you think is beneath you. You must be willing to do the lowest, most debased thing so that my work and my will be done. You must not refuse. You must not think of yourself as too good. You must be willing to be the lowest of slaves in order that my kingdom may come. You must not be too proud.”
More Highly than We Ought
Let’s be honest, pastors. We are tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. At times, we chafe against things that we think are beneath our pay grade. We are not always willing to do the dirty work of the ministry. I know I’m not always ready and willing. We are too oriented to reputation, position, and power. We desire to be recognized and to be prominent. We are not attracted to redemptive servitude. We want our ministries to be clean and comfortable. We tend to think of ourselves as more movers and shakers than servants. This doesn’t happen because you’re getting your identity as an ambassador. No, if you and I think any kingdom work is beneath us, we have become identity amnesiacs. And there is a short step between forgetting your assigned position and inserting yourself into God’s position.
The amazing example and commission of Christ should produce grief that leads to confession. We lose our way. We become more masters than servants. In our heart of hearts we know that we will never become what we have been called to become unless we’re rescued by the same grace we have been commissioned to proclaim and live before others. And we don’t have to fear that our silly, delusional, and unearned pride will cause the Father to turn his back on us. He knows who we are. He knows we don’t measure up. He knows we still fall short of his righteous requirement; that’s why he has given us the gift of his Son. We can run to him and admit to embarrassing self-glory and know he won’t embarrass us or slap us away, because our standing before him is not based on our performance but on the spotless performance of his Son.
So, with me right here, right now make the confession that you need to make. Cry for the help that you need. Your Savior is near, and he is both willing and able.