Years ago, I worked for a company that was owned by a very wise man named Chuck. He had over 300 employees and knew almost every one by name. Chuck had a way of making work a fun place to be. He took an interest in his employee’s professional lives as well as in their personal lives. Chuck was always very clear in his expectations of his employees, and there was never any question as to what was expected of you. Chuck made sure that employees were given continuous feedback and training to help each one succeed.
What really impressed me about Chuck was that when an employee needed to be disciplined, he would do it in such a way that you knew you had been disciplined, but you left the meeting feeling good about yourself and about your relationship with the boss.
A couple of months ago, Chuck retired and among his approximately 500 employees, there wasn’t a dry eye in the building. He was a fair, gentle, and well-loved man. His example of leadership is one that should be imitated.
Jesus also demonstrated a leadership style that He wants us to imitate. In John 13:1-17, we read that just before His arrest and death, Jesus wanted to share a private time with His disciples. We know this time as “The Last Supper.” Jesus knew that He would be betrayed and arrested very soon; and He wanted this last opportunity to teach His disciples, and show them His love.
Now just before the Lord and the disciples came into the banquet room, the disciples had been arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven... and Judas had already determined to betray Jesus after supper.
Jesus knew He would be betrayed by one of His disciples, disowned by another, and deserted by all of them for a time. Still, “He now showed them the full extent of His love.” Jesus knew His disciples. He knew the sins they had committed and the ones they would commit in the future, yet he became a servant to them and demonstrated His love by washing their feet.
Normally, on an occasion like this, the host would have ordered a servant to the menial task of removing the sandals of the guests and washing their feet. Since this meeting was intended to be private, no servants were present. And none of the disciples were ready to volunteer for the task, for each would have considered it an admission of inferiority to all the others.
Imagine that you are Peter. You are watching Jesus wash the others’ feet. He is moving closer and closer to you. Seeing his master behaving like a slave must have confused Peter. He still did not understand Jesus’ teaching that in order to be a leader, a person must be a servant. In verses 14-15 Jesus said; “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.”
There is a special blessing for those who not only agree that humble service is Christ’s way, but who also follow through and do it.
Jesus was the model servant, and He showed His servant attitude to His disciples. Washing guests’ feet was a job for a household servant to carry out when guests arrived. But Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist, as the lowliest slave would do, and washed and dried His disciples’ feet. If even He, God in the flesh is willing to serve, we His followers must also be servants, willing to serve in any way that glorifies God.
How do you treat the people who work under you? Children, employees, volunteers, freshmen, brothers and sisters.
Are you willing to follow Christ’s example of serving? And if so, whom will you serve today?
(Steve Bergerson is the pastor at Blind Lake Tabernacle.)