Saturday, January 19, 2008

Identity and Servanthood

"Who do they think I am?"

Few of us would probably actually say those words, but our attitudes often reflect a sense of entitlement. It's so easy, especially for those of us stateside, to get caught up in the positions of our society. We find ourselves subconsciously expecting special treatment. "Let me go to the front of the line, because I'm so busy." We put our own schedules ahead of others, grab the closest parking spot, live the life of Deserving One.

No wonder serving is so hard for us. No wonder God told us it's the greatest thing we can do!

I've posted this poem here before (, but it bears repeating in this context:

The Lowest Room
by N.V. Tilak
Grant me to give to men what they desire,
And for my portion take what they do slight.
Grant me, Lord, a mind that doth aspire
To less than it may claim of proper right.
Rather, the lowest place, at all men's feet
That do Thou graciously reserve for me.
This only bounty I would fain entreat,
That Thy will, my God, my will be.
And yet one other boon must Thou bestow;
I name it not ... for Thou dost know.

So, how do we get to this point - the point of being a willing servant rather than someone obsessed with position (even subconsciously)?

I think we do what Jesus did. John 13 records His washing the disciples' feet as part of a hands-on lesson about service. But there was a significant mindset that precipitated His serving in this way: Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. (John 13:3-4)

Jesus knew His position in God. He knew He had made a decision to serve, but still His focus was on who He was in God's eyes. He did the dirtiest work in the house on the night that one of these men would betray Him, one would deny Him, and the rest would flee. He did this the night before He was crucified.

The lesson here for us is that we can only serve well to the degree that we know who we are in Christ. Sooner or later, someone we serve is going to treat us like a servant. And that is the true test of servanthood. Even when we wrap our minds around the idea that we should serve, we like to think the recipients appreciate and acknowledge it. Well, they might not. Judas betrayed Christ; Peter denied Him; yet He served them anyway.

Who we are in Him never changes. And when we fully grasp our identity in Him, we can serve freely, just as Jesus did.

Phil. 2:5-11
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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