By Nay Ridgway
For Christians, it is easy to become stuck in the search. The search for the specific calling over our life, the specific plan that God has for us. “What is God calling me to?” “Where am I supposed to go?” “Who am I being called to serve?” All valid questions I must say. However, from a place of self-reliance, these questions can very quickly become a solo mission. So how are we as Christians meant to understand God’s specific calling over our lives? I think a good place to start is to look to one of the examples that Jesus gives us. Let me invite you to look at John’s Gospel, Chapter 13 and the account of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.
During the final night before his crucifixion, ahead of the Feast of the Passover, Jesus took on the role of a common servant by wrapping a towel around his waist, filling a basin with water and kneeling to the dirty feet of his disciples and washing them (verses 1-5). It is important to recognise the cultural barriers that Jesus broke by doing this, for during this time a superior Rabbi would never wash the feet of those considered inferior to him. So why did Jesus choose to humble himself to the role of a servant when he was and is the Son of God? Well, to be an example to us of God’s purpose for life, that’s why. In verse 14 and 15 we read “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” He says it himself! He has given us an example, a template for what we should do. Not for what we could do if we felt like it, but what is right to do in order to honour God’s purpose. I would therefore argue that although Christians spend much of their prayer life asking God what his specific calling for their life is (which is clearly so important!), we as followers of Jesus and the examples that he set, all share the same calling. To serve. To serve with the same self-sacrificial love that Jesus did. Mark 10:45 reads “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. Again, he leads by example.
Now, you may be reading this thinking “yeah that’s great and all but what does this actually look like?”, perhaps you were hoping for a more tangible answer to the question of your calling. Well, the truth is, your job title isn’t really that relevant. Hear me out. In verse 34 and 35, Jesus commands us to “love one another: just as I have loved you” and that by doing this “all people will know that you are my disciples”. So through this act of sacrificial love, Jesus is quite simply saying that by loving one another, we are not only fulfilling God’s purpose for our life, but we are revealing his true nature to those around us. Therefore, whether you are a pastor preaching to hundreds of thousands of people each week, a teacher with countless degrees or a waitress clearing tables at a café, so long as you are loving those around you with the humble, selfless love that Jesus showed to his disciples, you are fulfilling God’s commandment and therefore honouring his purpose. How encouraging is it that unlike the world’s perspective, God’s love does not discriminate between job titles and résumés. It is because of this that we can find rest in the knowledge that the questions of whether we are doing the ‘right’ thing or giving time to the ‘right’ people, are answered with the question of whether we are doing these things by simply loving as Jesus loved. Therefore, do not be discouraged if the work that you do doesn’t seem significant by worldly measures. Jesus did the work of a servant to honour God’s purpose, demonstrating so beautifully that no work is beyond reach for God to bless and be glorified through.
Reflecting on the fact that Jesus decided to reveal God’s true nature of self-giving love, on the very night that he was betrayed by those whose feet he had washed, makes me wonder: How can we as Christians possess that selfless love and servant-heartedness, even for those that betray us? I believe that we must first allow Jesus to wash our feet, before we try and wash anyone else’s. You see, as Christians, it is all too easy to become self-reliant despite feeling on fire for what God is calling us into. Whether you’re fighting to overcome homelessness, human trafficking or global warming, or maybe you have a heart to serve those facing more hidden injustices in our world, it is essential to enter into your work having allowed Jesus to wash your feet first. In verse 8, after Peter denies his feet to be washed, Jesus says “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me”. In other words, unless we accept the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, both on the cross and through him becoming a servant, how do we expect to serve others in the same way or dwell in the presence of God? We therefore have to receive him before we can serve him (verse 20), because he equips us for the very work he has set out for us.
Just as Jesus went against culture by taking on the role of a servant, I want to ask whether we as Christians are tackling culture by loving people and fighting for justice from a place of selflessness – or are we still loving in our own strength, with the longing to be praised and applauded? For we must remind ourselves that Christ died the most agonising and shameful death, having lived a sinless life, so that we may live. He did so because he loves us. He did not humble himself to the work of a servant to be applauded, but he washed the very feet of his betrayers from a place of generous, self-giving love. Therefore, “What is God calling me to?” to love one another as Jesus loved you. “Where am I supposed to go?” you can honour God wherever you are, simply accept his sacrifice first. Finally, “Who am I being called to serve?” One another.
Nay is a first year at Oxford Brookes studying English Language and Linguistics
[image description (inline right) A close up of Nay smiling]
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