A Critical Choice

Over and over again throughout each day, we face the critical question: Will I trust in the values and ways of this world?  Or will I trust in the values and ways of Jesus Christ? 

Almost 50 years ago, Robert J. Ringer wrote a best-selling book that continues to portray the common mindset of modern American culture.  His book, Winning Through Intimidation, grew out of his own experience.  He explains, “I did one altruistic good deed after another—concentrating on the other person’s best interest—naively believing that my good deed would be appreciated and that I’d be commensurately rewarded.  At best I ended up with a handful of air; at worst I got a slap in the face.”

Ringer gave up on altruism.  He states, “From now on I would have to be the intimidator and maneuver others into the role of intimidatee…for the first time, I had experienced the thrill of winning through intimidation…. There was no longer the slightest doubt in my mind that intimidation was the key to winning.”  

J.B. Phillips suggests that a different set of ‘Beatitudes’ might match better the values and ways of our world:

“Happy are the ‘pushers’: for they get on in the world.

“Happy are the hard-boiled; for they never let life hurt them.

“Happy are they who complain: for they get their own way in the end

“Happy are the blasé: for they never worry over their sins.

“Happy are the slave-drivers: for they get results

“Happy are the knowledgeable of the world: for they know their way around.

“Happy are the trouble-makers: for they make people take notice of them.”

But the values and the ways of Jesus Christ…? 

John tells us (in John 13:1-15) that a night or two before his crucifixion, Jesus got up from the dinner table, “took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.”  When he finished washing their feet, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

By washing the disciples’ feet and commanding us to do likewise, Jesus sets before us a choice: Will we trust in the values and ways of this world?  Or will we trust in his values and ways?

M. Scott Peck comments, “Until that moment the whole point of things had been for someone to get on top, and once he had gotten on top to stay on top or else attempt to get farther up.  But here this man already on top—who was rabbi, teacher, master—suddenly got down on the bottom and began to wash the feet of his followers.  In that one act Jesus symbolically overturned the whole social order.  Hardly comprehending what was happening, even his own disciples were almost horrified by his behavior.”

            The values and ways of this world may include intimidating others, pushing others, and climbing over others, but Jesus calls us to follow a different set of values and to live a different way of life. 

            Jesus calls us to love and to serve unconditionally.  Jesus did not withhold the washing of John’s and James’ feet though they had been arguing over who was the greatest.  He did not withhold the washing of Thomas’ feet though Thomas would doubt his resurrection.  He did not withhold the washing of Peter’s feet though Peter would deny knowing him.  And he did not withhold the washing of Judas’ feet though he knew that Judas would betray him.  To Jesus, love is not something that is given or withheld on the basis of what a person has earned, but is given purely on the basis of God’s never-ending love for us.  Can we seek to love others purely on the basis of God’s love for them?

            Jesus calls us to love and to serve sacrificially.  He took off his robe.  He humbled himself.  Shortly after this, he would give his very life for us.  What are we willing to give up for the sake of caring for another?  How far are we willing to humble ourselves for the sake of serving another?

            Jesus calls us to love and serve actively.  Jesus did not simply wish his disciples well.  He got up from the table; he poured water into a basin; he washed their feet; he dried their feet with a towel.  He took action to meet their needs.  Are we willing to get up, to get involved, to lend a hand, to do something practical?

Over and over again throughout each day, we face the critical question: Will I trust in the values and ways of this world?  Or will I trust in the values and ways of Jesus Christ? 

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