I’ve just returned from a mission trip where I witnessed a group of women expressing utter love and humility to one another when nobody was looking. It reminded me of why I lead these mission trips. The first step of spiritual growth is humility and the second is love. You will never be lost from intimacy with God when you place your feet firmly on these stepping stones in whatever circumstances you find yourself.
Humility is not about saying, “I am not a writer when you clearly have a gift at communication.” Humility is about getting yourself out of the way so that you are willing to write whether your writing is read, acknowledged or rewarded. Humility is about offering all that you are and all that you have for God’s glory and His purpose.
Love is not just spoken words. Anyone can express their love, even with tears for effect. Love is much more than that. Love is not just loving actions; anyone can give something of value to another person, but not everyone offers a sacrificial behavior in love. The love beyond our human works can only be determined by the God who knows our hearts. We aren’t even able to fully discern our own hearts.
Humility and love are best expressed in John 13 when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus took off His outer garment and took on the apron that belonged to an absent servant. No one expected to have their feet washed as was the custom because they did not see a person dressed as a servant as they walked into the room. Instead, they proceeded to the dinner table, accepting that this home did not have a servant available so they would have to forgo this needed and privileged custom. Ironically, the water was there and the apron was there; only the servant was missing. Only Jesus noticed that the chance to wash feet was available to anyone who would claim this job in humility in love. That is exactly what He did.
The disciples who were the recipients of His humble, and incredibly loving gesture—simply because of who He was—were dumbfounded. At the last dinner, when the regular servant washed their feet, I highly doubt they felt uncomfortable. I wonder if they had grown numb to this custom and ignored the significance of the sacrifice that this job required. The servants who normally carried out this custom were often the lowest class in the home, but not necessarily full of humility or love. Did the disciples ask the servant’s name as he washed their feet? Did they thank him or compliment him when he was done? It was the person who was washing their feet that made them feel uncomfortable. Peter told Jesus it wasn’t right for Him to wash his feet.
Jesus chose this normal everyday custom to demonstrate that the spiritual life is about doing normal, everyday actions with love and humility, and that made Him the leader they needed to follow.
He was an object lesson of love and humility in ministry. He directly told them that they would need to minister in more humble and loving ways because the servant is not above His Master. Of course, Jesus’ greatest act of love and humility was the journey to the cross. Paul encourages us to learn how to steady ourselves on these two steps to make the spiritual progress of becoming like Christ in Philippians 2:1-4:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Look for the next opportunity to grab a towel and some water nearby and love others whether anybody is looking or not. It will be good for your soul.