When a teacher gives an assignment, good students take it seriously. They do what’s required, give their best effort, and complete the work. Our assignment as followers of Christ is to emulate Him, develop His character (John 13:35). Our actions and words should touch people as His did. People who connected with Jesus were forever changed. He promised that His Holy Spirit would come to live in His people. That means we have the same power within us that raised Jesus from the dead! (Romans 8:11). We can work with Him to become like Christ.
Another one of the characteristics of Jesus we have the privilege and power to develop is servanthood. Without a doubt, Jesus was the ultimate servant. Although He was praised as a great teacher and even had a following that wanted Him to flex His muscles and show how He could control and dominate, Jesus made sure to teach them to be servants by actually doing it Himself. Mark 10:45 records Jesus telling everyone: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” He proved it by loving and serving the children, the poor, the women - the last, lowest, and least of the current culture. Even the rich and powerful were served by Jesus, but clearly not because they forced Him or because He was intimidated. He served because He CHOSE to. It was a willing, proactive choice. Despite having the authority to get anything He wanted, being able to get the praise and pampering of others, He chose the exact opposite by humbling Himself and serving others.
Jesus declared what we instinctively know: “Greater love has no person than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Few of us will be called upon to actually die for those we love, but we have dozens of opportunities every single week to lay down our preferences, our conveniences, our lives to serve others. Choosing to do that is what grows relationships to places of deep love and loyalty. It is what brings joy and significance in life. Watch a marriage. When the members jockey for position and power, all the joy drains out. Resentment eventually replaces all that was once good. But a marriage where serving each other is a core value, the members are actually partners, and as time passes,their relationship becomes more devoted and unbreakable.
My parents had that marriage. They awakened with the goal every single day to out-serve each other. If one person went to bed at night knowing they had not served as faithfully as possible, they wanted it to be the other person. In countless tiny to stupendous ways, they laid down their lives for each other. It became such a core value that it was the way they treated each other, and then us, and the whole world. Dad at 96 years old today is still trying to find ways to serve. It is what gives the highest value to life.
This Lenten season we celebrate gratefully what the servanthood of Jesus did for us - He laid down His life to give us life. He calls us to do the same thing in practical ways. Serve. It’s the path to significant living.