Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
July 29, 2018
A way to get people to check out Jesus
Sixty years ago I met an English teacher who was a radiant witness for Jesus. Her name was Estelle Carver. When I exchanged letters with her, she signed her name “Estelle, sjc.” When I asked why “sjc,” she told me the initials stood for “Servant of Jesus Christ.”
Instantly, I decided that I would sign my name that way for the rest of my life. At first I felt embarrassed to do it. My friends will think I am a jerk or a religious fanatic. But I forced myself to continue the habit. As years passed it became automatic; it was part of my name – “Walter, sjc.” That is my true identity – a servant of Jesus Christ.
I use the initials not as a message to others but as a reminder to myself of my true identity, my sole reason to exist – to live my life as a servant of Jesus Christ. I had many roles – pastor, preacher, husband, father, brother, friend – but in my vocation and all my relationships, God had called me to live as a servant of Jesus Christ. And though I could have done it much better than I have, that remains my consuming desire.
The word servant does have negative overtones. Across the world, in all ages, the poor and underprivileged have been forced to serve the wealthy and powerful. In Alabama I grew up with black people who had little choice but to live as servants of white people. I can understand, then, that many people may be reluctant to take on the identity of servant.
But when it comes to knowing God, the Bible leaves us no choice. To become an authentic Christian, one must become a servant of Jesus Christ. Jesus turned upside down the idea of the world – that the privileged will have servants. He said that he had come not “to be served, but to serve.” He instructed his disciples to serve others, to “wash feet as I have washed your feet,” Jesus said. Servanthood, then, is the key to pleasing God.
Serving others is not glamorous. It involves unpleasant things – like dirty feet. Pride, that monstrous attitude that seeks constantly to destroy us, will cause us to think we are too important for servant work; it is “beneath” us. But the example of Jesus calls us to swallow our pride, grab a towel and basin, and wash feet.
Our willingness to wash feet begins when we embrace the truth that every Christian is a minister. The word “minister” means much more than priest or preacher; it means any believer, any disciple of Jesus. God expects Christians to “minister” in every facet of life. We may expand this truth by changing the word “minister” to “servant” because every Christian is expected to live as a ministering servant of Jesus, serving others in love.
Washing feet is more than sharing in a “foot-washing” worship service though such services can be truly humbling learning experiences. More than once I have seen the Spirit move people to tears as sins are confessed amid cries for forgiveness.
I remember a service in which a woman knelt in front of her husband, and washing his feet gently, asked forgiveness for her rotten attitude. After she returned to her seat, her husband knelt before her, and washed her feet with water and his own tears. He asked her to forgive him for the ways he had hurt her for many years. Needless to say, we “had church” that night. To witness two people forgiving each other is truly to see God at work.
But “washing feet” refers to much more than a foot-washing service. Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa have inspired us to see many unique ways to wash feet by offering the love of Jesus to neighbors in need.
Greg does it at the nursing home. He sits there for hours every day, feeding his dad who can no longer feed himself. He refrains from chastising his dad when he drools food on his pajamas. Instead he treats his dad with the same kindness he received as a child when slobbering his own food in a highchair.
John does it by gently caring for his wife who no longer knows his name because Alzheimer’s has robbed her of her memory. John showers her with kindness, spending hours with her every day even though time means nothing to her anymore.
Coralie and several friends do it by frequently preparing and serving food to poor people in a section of town where so many seldom enjoy a “hot” meal.
Ron does it by being available 24-7 to a friend who is struggling to recover from drug and alcohol addiction.
Bill does it by mowing the lawn for a neighbor who has been sidelined for weeks by a heart attack.
Ken does it by being available, night and day, to the poor and needy in his poverty-stricken neighborhood, people who need a meal or clothes or a shower or a job, people who desperately need the gift of hope for a better life.
Ellen and Laura do it by inspiring dozens of women to prepare lovely dresses and dolls for poor girls here and in third world countries. Hundreds of little girls have been blessed with a beautiful dress because these women are serving Jesus by loving “the least of these.”
When we look around us, we can find simple ways to share the love of Christ with our neighbors. People may not give what you say about Jesus a second thought. But if you find a way to wash their feet with love, they may decide to check out this Jesus you are serving. + + +