Slave Discipleship: Assuming the Posture of Power
- Wednesday, September 30, 2009
To some Peter's response sounds humble, but Jesus responded in a very firm way. "You have been bathed—you are clean already except for your feet. You are tracking sin's dirt all over my clean floor, and I must wash your feet so you can be fit to serve with me." When guests bathed at home and then walked on the ancient dusty streets, they tracked that dirt into the host's home. That's why there was a slave to wash their feet. Jesus used this everyday picture to make the point that once we trust Him we are clean except for the dust of the sins we commit after salvation. This dust clings to our spiritual feel, and we must be cleansed if we are to be fruitful for Christ. Unless Peter recognized this reality and submitted to it, he could have no part with Jesus.
This is what slave discipleship is all about—helping our disciples be fruitful by fulfilling their part with Jesus. Two questions will enable us to understand this more clearly. First, where was Jesus when He washed Peter's feet? On His knees. He could only transform Peter's heart as the powerless Slave who served on His knees. Next, whose agenda did Jesus follow? Peter's? No way! Jesus followed God's agenda.
Jesus discipled Peter from His knees. He assumed the position of a slave because He loved His own unto the uttermost (13:1). Because of love Jesus became a slave to His Father and His followers; because of love Jesus got on His knees to lead Peter; because of love Jesus patiently answered Peter's protest; because of love Jesus told Peter the danger he faced; because of love Jesus followed His Father's agenda and not Peter's; because of love for His Father and His follower Jesus cleansed Peter of sin.
Love turned the powerless Slave into the powerful Discipler because love motivated Him to speak truth to His disciples. And love will transform us from being powerless to being powerful when we call on Christ to do the same thing through us for our disciples that He did for His disciple. But we can only speak the truth to our disciples when we love them as Jesus loved Peter. And we can only do that when Christ loves through us, so we are totally dependent on Him to love with His love so we can tell the truth as He told the truth.
Look at what Jesus did out of love for His followers.
Jesus resisted Peter's challenge and issued His own challenge. Through Christ in us we must resist our disciples' challenges and call them to the challenge Christ has for them.
Jesus rejected Peter's agenda and asserted His Father's agenda. Peter's desire was always to be in control, and Jesus would never let him do this. Our disciples have the same drive, and we must reject their efforts to control and pursue their agenda by calling them to Christ's agenda for them.
Jesus confronted Peter out of His Father's interests in his life, and we must do the same out of the Master's interests in our disciples' lives. As disciplers for Christ we represent Him to our disciples. This awesome responsibility can only be fulfilled as we grow to be more Christlike in how we reach out to our disciples. We must become powerless as Jesus was powerless if we are going to have any power in their lives. In carrying out discipleship He submitted Himself to His followers out of dependence on the Holy Spirit in accordance with His Father's will. By becoming an obedient slave He assumed the most powerless posture possible. And it was out of this powerless posture that He exercised the greatest power possible, the power of love that transformed His men. If that's how Jesus did it, that's how we must do it.
Some may wonder how Jesus could be Peter's slave as well as His Father's. To be the Father's slave was to be the followers' slave because that's what the Father wanted of Him. Note what Paul said in II Cor. 4: 5 where he declares himself to be the Corinthians' slave. (The NIV totally misses the point when it translates this as servant rather than slave. It completely mystifies me why translators so totally misrepresent the meaning of a text when they choose to use a less difficult term in an effort to make the passage clear, but actually miss the intended point). Paul used the word doulos, slave, to describe his relationship with the Corinthians, but he added a key explanation when he said, "for Jesus' sake." Paul was their slave, but not to do what they wanted. He enslaved himself to them to do what Christ wanted in their lives, and this is what we must do with our disciples. As disciplers we are our disciples' slaves to represent Christ's interests in their lives no matter what it costs us. In our slavery we don't do what our followers want us to do; we do what our Leader wants us to do. This means we will have to face our disciples with their sin, as Jesus did with Peter, especially when we don't want to. This calls for us to do what we least want to d confront others about the most difficult realities in their lives. When we fail to do this we fail in our most important task as slave disciplers, serving as Christ's sanctifying agents in their lives. Jesus has chosen to use us as His hands in cleansing our followers of sin. Because of Christ's words and works through us, we bear the eternal fruit of seeing our disciples grow to be more like Him. This is overwhelming and amazing, but also true. Of course, only Jesus can cleanse. But He has chosen to use human agency to accomplish His purpose in the lives of His followers. We cannot shy away from this eternal task.
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