Sacramental Servanthood

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by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –

For nearly two thousand years Christians have debated if Jesus, when he washed the feet of his disciples, intended to establish a spiritual ritual, a sacrament if you will, among his followers. Clearly he stated, “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” (John 13:14-15 NIV). Did he, or did he not, intend that we should participate in a periodic ceremony of washing one another’s feet as a token reenactment of his humble act of servanthood?

The best answer to that question is probably “no”—and “yes.” No, because Jesus wasn’t real big on ritual for the sake of ritual. Yes, because if a particular ceremony is helpful in reminding his people of the servant attitude he expects of us, there is nothing precluding the practice of it in the church. What was more important in Jesus’ mind was to instill in his disciples (including you and me) a mindset that leads us to accept Christian servanthood as a means of grace to the believer.

Christian servanthood becomes sacramental when it results in positive change in the believer. When, as a follower of Christ, one chooses to embrace Jesus’ challenge to humble one’s self and become a servant, the way is open for positive growth in many ways, some of which may be:

Development of greater sensitivity to the need for complete surrender and obedience in even the details of one’s life. The good servant sees a need and does his best to resolve it. He doesn’t try to avoid a task because “that’s not my job.”

Learning to find ministry in the most insignificant of tasks, whether it be setting the table or cleaning up the vomit of a drunk. In washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus accepted a task that was usually relegated to a servant, or someone of no great social status. The task was so humble that even the vessel used to hold the wash water was used as a euphemism for a degraded condition (as in Psalm 60:8).

Discovering that the need for public recognition or affirmation from one’s superiors or peers is no longer a motivating force. Jesus was not thanked or congratulated for washing his disciples’ feet—they protested and rebuked him for performing a task that seemed demeaning. He did not do the deed for what he could get out of it; rather he did it for the sake of the disciples, so they could learn from his example.

Finding the greatest spiritual rewards in spreading the good news of Christ through one loving deed at a time.

The rewards of sacramental servanthood are not limited to the spiritual rewards received by the good servant-leader, however. The receiver of the service also experiences the blessing of the sacrament as, through the faithful, Christ-honoring work of his servant, the grace of God is revealed to the individual.

The individual learns that Christ is a living reality as he sees God working through his faithful servant.

The message of Christ is preached through actions as well as words.

Needy persons, Christians and non-Christians alike, find the stability and assurance they need as the servant of God demonstrates the unfailing love of God, no matter what the challenge.

As Christian servanthood is practiced, individuals learn that they are respected, not scorned; loved, not ignored; worthy, not worthless; persons who are valued for who they are, not simply for what they can contribute.

God’s will is accomplished, and men and women are challenged to surrender their own lives to Christ.

Lord, accept me as your servant.
Make me sensitive to what needs to be done—
And help me to find, through your Holy Spirit, the means to accomplish it.
Make my life a sacrament, a means of revealing your Grace to others;
Overcome any reluctance to “get my hands dirty” for your sake.
Teach me the secret of sacramental servanthood,
That whatever I say and do might be used to your glory.

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