Throughout the history of the church, Christians have struggled with what it means to be a leader. Yet Christ set the example of what was to be expected through his own life, and subsequent death. Many of the characteristics that Christian leaders should strive to emulate were demonstrated during Jesus’ final meal with his disciples, before He was to be crucified.
Humility and a servant’s attitude toward those we lead.
As twenty-first century Christians, it is hard for us to comprehend the magnitude of the act of a teacher washing his disciples feet, in the first century Jewish culture.
Feet washing was typically reserved for the lowliest of servants, non-Jewish (unclean) slaves.
It is no surprise that Peter, having previously demonstrated his outspoken nature, should have objected to what he would have considered inappropriate and perhaps even humiliating. Further, Peter’s previous revelation that Jesus was the Christ, would have only emboldened this view. Yet, Jesus set an example of servant leadership – a leader who willingly and humbly serves those who look to Him for the purpose of their spiritual cleansing and strengthening.
Encourage the pursuit of seeking God daily as we are sanctified through His power and grace.
When Peter asked Jesus to wash not only his feet, but his hands and head, Jesus replied “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” Once again knowledge of historical setting and culture of the scripture provides a key to understanding the text. Sandals provided little protection from the dust and dirt of ancient Palestinian roads, especially as walking was the primary mode of transportation, thus, frequent foot-washing was necessary. Once we are saved, we are justified, and have been immediately made clean. But, transformation does not end there. As we walk with Christ, renewing our mind through His Word and Spirit, we experience the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We move from infants in the faith to mature Christians. Brothers and sisters able to carry out the instructions of Paul to the church in Thessalonica, as written in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-24:
14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Trusting God with our enemies and refraining from bitterness and personal vindication.
Jesus was fully aware that Judas was determined to betray Him. Yet, he dined with him.
He washed his feet. He didn’t take it upon himself to attack his character, or seek to justify himself by disparaging HIs enemy.
Instead of taking the situation with Judas into His own hands, He trusted the purpose, plan, and vindication of his Father. Finally, not only did he love his faithful to the end, he loved his enemy to the end as well.
He established a new commandment, that we would love others as He loved us.
Leaders do not have the option to pick and choose who they will love. We have been commanded to love others – even our enemies – as Christ loved us: as a servant leader. This is a love that is total, and complete, and that compels us to sacrifice ourselves so that others might know His Father. It is a love that does not satiate itself on the entitlement of stature, nor does it show favor to the mighty, nor look down upon the lowly, but instead compels us to willingly and humbly perform acts of service that would reflect the heart and light of Christ to all, endeavoring to lead any who would receive to Him.
Each of us who are Christians are a leader in some aspect of our lives. Some of us are actively involved in ministry, while others are leaders in our homes, or on our jobs, in our schools, or among our friends. Help us to examine our hearts and our choices. Show us any area of our lives in which we are not living out the commandment to love others as Christ loved us. While we try to emulate the humility, faith, and service that Christ demonstrated through our work and acts, we sometimes fall short. Please reveal the areas of our lives in which we struggle to demonstrate the humility, faith, and serving spirit of Christ. But also, please lead us to discover and recognize the root of our sin in this area, so that we might turn to You in repentance, and turn these areas over to You for forgiveness, healing, and deliverance. In Jesus name we ask this. We love you. Amen.