On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?” [The expert] answered, ”’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’”; and, “’Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
–Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)
When God handed down the Law through Moses to the entire assembly of Israel, he commanded “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 NIV). When the law expert tested Jesus, Jesus turned the question back on the questioner by asking him how he read the law; his reply was accurate. “Do this and you will live,” Jesus said. Yes! Your heart will be glad. Your face will be radiant. You’ll walk in God’s light, God’s energy, God’s communion. You’ll walk in joy!
In John 13:34 (NIV), Jesus gave the disciples a new command: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” By His death, Jesus brought the Law to fulfillment, but loving one another transcends the Law as Jesus transcended death. Jesus’ command–this new command–placed the Father’s imperative to love our neighbor as ourselves in the context of Jesus’ ministry among us: we love one another because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Jesus’ ministry cleared away the religiosity blinding us to the Father’s true nature. Jesus walked the earth to demonstrate, in the flesh, God’s glory, meekness, power, love, and simplicity. Jesus served, and time and again throughout the gospels, He clearly demonstrated that, while redemption of mankind was paramount to His mission, service was the context in which that redemption and salvation was wrapped.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,” He iterated in Mark 10:45 (NIV). After He had washed the apostles’ feet the evening of His arrest, Jesus asked the Twelve “Do you understand what I have done for you?” (John 13:12 NIV). The King of kings and Lord of lords–the Creator of the universe and everything in it–had just put on the role of servant, stooped down, and washed their dusty, stinky, calloused feet. The teacher had lowered himself to serve the students. Why?
“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. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:13-17 NIV). We will be blessed if we do them. We will be blessed as we look up to our Savior and God and follow His example of service, love, and humility.
With both of us working, Mary and I sometimes struggle to keep the house in a relative semblance of order. For two perfectionists living out our Spiritual gift of administration, being able to write “I Love You” in the dust covering the dresser, or watching the clumps of dog hair chase each other around the living room floor when we flip on the ceiling fans stretches our tolerance for disorganization to the edge.
One of my pet peeves is piles: unfolded laundry piled for days in the clothes baskets on the cedar chest; stacks of Hannah’s artwork perching on top of the jewelry case; mountains of unread mail heaped on the kitchen bar ready to slide into my quiet-time space like the slipping of a tectonic plate.
Mary has little tolerance for unwashed dishes, especially when the strata of plates, silverware, and cooking utensils leaning over the sink provides archeological clues to what we ate two days ago. “I wish we had a kitchen fairy,” Mary once complained. Unfortunately, neither Whirlpool nor GE manufactures those, but we discovered that we do indeed have one.
One morning after showering, I walked out of the bedroom into the kitchen to fix breakfast. As I rounded the corner I saw Hannah standing on her blue plastic step stool in front of the sink, singing. She scrubbed a plate with a soapy washcloth while cold water streamed from the faucet. “Good morning,” I greeted, not wanting to startle her.
She turned and smiled at me, brown eyes bright with excitement. “I’m the kitchen fairy, Daddy!” she declared. “I’m washing dishes before Mom gets up.” Talk about melting my heart! Here stood my six-year-old with sleeves rolled up, dish in one hand, washcloth in the other, happily serving her Mom without being asked. She saw a need and jumped in with no complaints, but with determination and birdsong and a happy smile.
Hannah loves serving with Mary and me on Sundays in the church nursery. In the “Yellow Room,” we get to hang out with a dozen or more one and two-year-olds still in diapers. Hannah proudly wears her “Leader” badge around her neck, and she enjoys reading to the kids, serving them Pepperidge Farm Goldfish at snack time, and supervising the wiggly children while they scribble on coloring sheets with drool-covered crayons.
“Why do you like to serve in the yellow room?” I asked Hannah one morning.
She thought for a moment, then replied “I like putting the drawing paper down, helping with the snack, putting the chairs down. I like doing that.”
“Why do you like doing that?” I prodded.
“Because it’s fun!”
Yes! Because it’s fun!
“Our kids are terrible about following our instruction,” declared Scott Crenshaw, Senior Pastor of New River Fellowship. “But they’re great at following our example.” Give a child an opportunity to serve, and you get to watch Jesus in action, real-time. And, if you’re like me, you’ll end up learning from their example as much as they learn from yours.
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes