Imagine you’re on a mission to change the world. Naturally, you’d want to surround yourself with the best people for the job. Who would you pick? Rich people who can help fund your dreams? Influential people to give you credibility and help pave the way? Like-minded people whose lifestyles reflect the image you want to project? It seems like a logical way to start.
That wasn’t Jesus’s plan. He consistently flipped logic upside down. When He started His earthly ministry, He surrounded Himself with the poor, the weak, the unclean. Look at his closest friends. There were a handful of uneducated tradesmen. A government employee that everyone hated on principle. A political extremist. Some we don’t know much about, but they were all very young. Only Peter was even old enough to pay taxes, and he was loud, arrogant and brash. Jesus’s other two closest friends, James and John, had such bad tempers that they were called the “Sons of Thunder.” Judas was a thief, and stole from their ministry. Hardly the dream team that we would expect. And yet they’re the ones that He entrusted to carry on His teachings to the early Church.
His life and ministry were scandalous. Jesus regularly had dinner and hung out with the outcasts of society. He cared about children and surrounded Himself with women, who were barely recognized in that day. He loved the unlovable and welcomed them without hesitation. He shunned the religious leaders who cared only about appearing righteous, while ignoring the suffering of others.
Jesus didn’t care about peoples’ material wealth or social status. Only their hearts. He never sought out anyone who could help Him advance in this life, and He never turned anyone away for being weak or not worth His time.
Why do we refuse to do the same?
We argue our opinions and unfriend anyone who dares to disagree with us. We tell ourselves that we can’t possibly love that other person because they’re different than us. Maybe they belong to a different church or political party. That means if we love them, we’re weak because we haven’t won the argument. It can be hard to love people we may not even particularly like. It’s all too easy to forget that we’re brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus came to save everyone – of all races, nationalities, politics and walks of life. If God doesn’t care, how can we?
The Gospels are full of stories of the disciples bickering about which of them was the best. Jesus constantly broke up the arguments and reminded them to keep their eyes on things that really mattered. He told them in Matthew 10:43-45, “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus is the ultimate example of how we should live. He reigns over all creation, but still humbled Himself to live a human life and die for people who might never even love Him back. He spent His life helping and serving other people – especially the lowly, the poor, the invisible ones that society discarded. During His last night, He washed His disciples’ feet. That was the job of a servant, but none of them were willing to humble themselves to do it. So the Messiah Himself did it for them. He even washed the feet of the man who would betray Him.
The disciples started following Jesus as children (mostly teenagers). They had nothing in common except for their love of Jesus, so their pride and ambition got in the way at first. It wasn’t until after He returned to heaven that they finally understood. And they spent the rest of their lives serving one another and the Church in the name of Jesus.
Keeping that in our minds and hearts, let’s try to show each other a little more compassion. As believers, we’re the only example of church that some people may ever see. The world is watching. What are we going to show them? Arrogance, pride and discord? Or love, grace and mercy? If our lives as believers don’t look any different than the world’s, why should they even listen to anything we have to say?
That doesn’t mean to let injustice go unchecked. Jesus was very clear about that, and quick to defend the vulnerable. But someone doesn’t have to look just like us for us to love them. We’re all created differently, with different gifts and purposes. And every one of us has a job in the body of Christ that only we can fill. We can learn so much from each other. Every perspective is important. Only God can see how the entire puzzle fits together. Our only responsibility is to love God and love each other. Not just the ones that look like us or act like us.
How will you respond when you see someone in need? Will you react with the love of Jesus? Even if they can’t do anything for you in return, or if they disagreed with your last social media post? Or will you stop to decide first if they’re worthy of your love? If you’re ever in doubt, take a minute to ask yourself how Jesus would respond. I have a feeling you already know the answer. He would wash their feet.