Lead with a towel
When he [Jesus] had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “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 13:12-17)
During the Upper Room Discourse (the Last Supper), Jesus gave his disciples final teachings to to prepare them for leadership in his physical* absence. Here Jesus delivers one of the most memorable lessons on humility and leadership. God incarnate took the position of a servant/slave and washed the gritty sandaled feet of 12 sweaty men who'd been walking all day.
In Luke's account of the Last Supper (Luke 22:7-38) he tells that once again the 12 disciples began to dispute who among them was to be considered the greatest (v24). Jesus then spells out the upside down kingdom again (just as in Matthew 18:1-9) by revealing that the one who rules is the one who serves, just as Christ served them.
The Upside Down Kingdom
It's hard to understand how the disciples could have been so dense when Jesus was so abundantly clear on this issue of leadership. That is until we look at our own lives and realize that we've been establishing "pecking orders" from preschool/kindergarten on.
While the lessons and applications from Christ's footwashing are limitless, Roy King provides four ways healthy leaders respond to Christ:
Where are we?
- When was the last time we allowed someone to serve us?
- What position or goals are we striving for?
- Do we trust Christ, by confidently walking in the Spirit?
- Are we living in a community of Christ?
*(In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus' Great Commission assures us that he'll surely be with us always, to the very end of the age).