This month’s Pastor’s Perspective is delivered by Dr. Teman Knight, Heritage Baptist Church
“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.”
We all know that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The Christian life is filled with many symbols and illustrations that have great meaning to us. The cross is perhaps our most iconic symbol appearing on our jewelry, adorning our sanctuaries and identifying our faith on most of our church signs. Rightfully so, as it reminds us of Christ’s sacrificial death to pay the cost of our sin.
The Ichthus or fish symbol is one of the oldest symbols of the Christian faith. Often in the ancient world, when believers met someone new, they would draw half of the fish symbol in the dirt, and the other person would complete the other half of the symbol, thus revealing himself or herself as a Christian. The Greek word ichthus also formed an acrostic which meant Jesus, Christ, God, Son, and Savior.
A few years ago, the president of my seminary Alma Mater reintroduced me to an old symbol of our faith, the towel and basin, through his emphasis on service. The towel and basin come from the actions of Jesus on the night before he died, as recorded in John 13. The disciples had just been arguing about which of them was the greatest when Jesus, God in the flesh, took a towel and basin and washed their feet. He painted a picture of what being a servant was all about. Then Jesus challenged us to follow His example.
Jesus demonstrated some great truths about what a servant really looks like. First, a servant seizes the opportunity to get involved. When we see a need, we often stand on the sideline and wait for someone else to take care of it. But a servant jumps in to do something about it. Jesus saw a need and could have waited for one of the disciples to do it or told one of them to take care of it. Instead, he took up the towel and basin and took care of the need himself. Christianity is not a spectator sport but demands that we get involved in making a difference.
A servant is humble. In an entitlement society where people constantly demand their rights or what they feel they deserve, we should remember Jesus’s humility in serving. If anyone ever deserved to be served, it is God’s Son, but he taught us that he didn’t come to be served but to serve others. We often talk about serving others, but we get offended if someone treats us like a servant. Remember to be like Jesus and “take on the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).
A servant serves even when someone has not earned it. Jesus washed all of the disciples’ feet, including Judas. Sometimes we justify our failure to serve by telling ourselves they don’t deserve our service. Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, but he served him anyway. When we serve others, our attitude toward them changes, and we will grow to care for them and show value to them despite their performance. Remember God’s love for us even though we don’t deserve it.
A servant sacrifices. The next day Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross to pay our sin debt. To truly serve someone costs us. We must be willing to pay that cost of investing ourselves, our time, and our resources to follow Jesus’s example. In the words of the old hymn, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Join me in following Jesus’s example as we show the world God’s great love by serving others.
Dr. Teman Knight is the Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church on Perry Hill Road in Montgomery. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary extension center in Birmingham. Teman and his wife Darlana live in Montgomery. They have a son and a daughter and four extraordinary grandchildren. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.