Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
– John 13:4, NIV
As we develop intimate relationship with God and begin to think in some of the ways He does, we develop a desire to serve others in love when opportunities arise. Not because we have to, but because we love people as God does, and want to follow the example of Jesus.
When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in John 13, we see the love of the Father overflowing through Him and showing itself in humble service – even though Jesus was their Teacher and Master and King. He wasn’t showing off or trying to make a point about how “good” He was, but rather brought Himself down to the position of a slave in order to demonstrate His love, and set an example for us to serve others with the same attitude.
If my vow – absolute surrender to God – was true, then it must mean absolute surrender to the divine love to fill me; to be a servant of love to love every child of God around me. …. “Lord, let love from Heaven flow down into my heart. I am giving up my life to pray and live as one who has given himself up for the everlasting love to dwell in and fill him.”
– Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender
We cannot develop this attitude on our own. It is a process of gradual transformation as God shapes us into His likeness through relationship. Our job is to respond to His call and to seek to get to know Him better: through this His mindsets are developed in us, and we serve others accordingly. So may we surrender to God and be willing to get our hands dirty in service of others. May we let our love for God lead us to love and serve others, even when it costs us – may we not simply bless people with our words but be willing to actually go out of our way to bless and help people. As we surrender our lives to God may we let Him nurture in us a willingness to humbly serve others with His sacrificial love.
Gradually as we get to know God we begin to realise that the good things we have are given to us by Him – for a purpose. We are told in 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” It is important to go throughout life holding everything lightly, not clinging to things. We hold our life lightly, willing to give it up for His sake and let Him lead it in different directions at any time; we hold our calling lightly, willing to let Him develop and shape it and bring us where He wants us; we hold our possessions and our money lightly, willing to give to others in the knowledge that we cannot hold onto things forever; we hold our gifts and talents lightly, knowing that God has given them to us and that they are not for us to necessarily keep to ourselves but that He can use them… We are called to humbly use what we have for His glory and for the benefit of others. So may we surrender to God our hands and let Him teach us willingness to give and receive, to serve and bless, to use what He has given us in holiness and humility.
This was an important theme in the life of St Benedict, and he specified 12 “steps to humility”. This is how it begins: “The first degree of humility, then, is that a man always have the fear of God before his eyes shunning all forgetfulness and that he be ever mindful of all that God hath commanded.” The most important thing in life when learning to serve others in humble love is that we keep God always at the forefront of our minds – that He may lead us and teach us and show us the way. As we surrender, may He become the motive behind all that we do and say to people, and especially the motive behind our service of others. We might have all sorts of motives when we do things to help others, but may God teach us to serve out of an overflow of love for Him and a desire for His Kingdom to grow.
The second of St Benedict’s 12 steps is a little like the first, reminding us that it is only by God’s will that we serve, and that we live to follow His plans and not our own. He wrote, “The second degree of humility is, when a man loveth not his own will, nor is pleased to fulfill his own desires but by his deeds carrieth out that word of the Lord which saith: ‘I came not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me.’” We may have all the best intentions, but without living in God’s will and seeking what He wants we cannot rightly serve Him or others. He is the vine, and we are the branches – may our lives and our mindsets reflect this.
This, of course, naturally leads us to surrender to God, as we recognise that we cannot follow His will in our own strength but that we need to be completely His – and then we can work for Him as His representatives on earth. St Benedict goes on to say, “The third degree of humility is, that for the love of God a man subject himself to a Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle saith: ‘He became obedient unto death.’”
Although St Benedict was primarily referring here to a monastic way of life, it is also applicable to any Christian, subjecting himself (or herself) to God. To develop humility in life in order to serve others rightly we must give ourselves to God, in obedience to Him, that we may follow the example of Christ – who was sufficiently surrendered to God that He was even able to obey to the point of death. May our surrender lead us to obedience too, and may He develop in us a humble love from which we can serve Him and others in a way that pleases Him. As John Henry Newman said, “To take up the cross of Christ is no great action done once for all; it consists in the continual practice of small duties which are distasteful to us.” So may we surrender to God our hands and let Him teach us humility as we learn to serve others from the heart, in a way that pleases Him.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
– Proverbs 11:2, NIV
God my Creator,
Thank You that in the life and death of Jesus on earth You showed us the way to live.
Thank You for being the humble King, showing us how to serve.
I’m sorry for sometimes not knowing (or living) the right way to serve.
I surrender to You my hands and ask that You’d teach me.
Help me to let every thought and deed of service come from Your love in me.
May I live in Your ways, serving other people the way You want me to.