“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
This verse — written by Paul, Silas, and Timothy regarding their time with the Thessalonians — hung on the wall for years in my home in Uganda as a reminder of how we wanted to live, how we actually did get to live: inviting people into our home, into our lives, serving and being served by our beloved community, sharing the Gospel not just in words but in a plate of rice and beans, a glass of water, a late-night hospital trip, a prayer in times of crisis, tears over hurting loved ones, laughter that made our bellies ache.
In his letter to Galatians, Paul puts it this way: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the ﬂesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13). Paul knows we are quick to imagine that freedom means we can do whatever we want. We think we want freedom to make our own choices, or freedom to be honored and highly esteemed, freedom to seek out the short-lived “peace” the world offers with a bubble bath and a glass of wine. But the freedom that Jesus gives us and calls us to is different. He frees us from our bondage, from our idols, from putting our conﬁdence in our own ﬁckle ﬂesh that fails and disappoints time and time again. And, Paul says, He frees us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. He frees us to serve. He frees us to follow His example.
Remember how Paul urges us in Philippians 2 to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus? The New King James Version of the Bible translates the chapter a little differently than how I have it memorized. Verse 7 reads that Christ “made Himself of no reputation.” The footnote on this says that Christ “emptied Himself of His privileges.” Can you imagine? We live in a world where we hold so tightly to our privileges, where our reputation is everything to us, but we are called to the humility of our King, who made Himself of no reputation, who emptied Himself of all privilege to serve us, to die for us.
In John 13, we see a beautiful illustration of this. The night before His death, Jesus has His disciples gathered together. He knows that one of the men at the table is about to betray Him and that He will then be tortured and die.
He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…
When he had ﬁnished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:3-5, 12-15)
Jesus sets an example in His humility and then invites us to follow Him, to do the same. I don’t know if you noticed this, but Jesus washed Judas’ feet. Even after He knew that Judas would betray Him. Jesus loved and served even those He knew wouldn’t love Him back. And He will give us the grace and the strength we need to serve, not for our own honor, not because we might be loved or served in return, but because in Him we have the freedom to love with abandon. The more we practice this, the more we believe it.
In a day and age when we think our image, our reputation, and our social media following are our most powerful tools of inﬂuence, Jesus is beckoning us to a towel and a basin of water. Jesus is beckoning us to the freedom and peace of service.
Katie Davis Majors joins Randy and Tammy this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Safe All Along by Katie Davis Majors. Copyright ©2023 by Katie Davis Majors. Published by Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Used by permission.