By Mike Ratliff
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:17-21 ESV)
Arrogance, boasting, retaliation, and self-protection are just a few of the fruits of Human pride. The natural mind exalts pride while demeaning humility. Timidity is often confused with humility. Timidity is actually a fruit of pride and is a form of fear. It is the method pride uses for self-protection. On the other hand, boldness is often confused with pride. Biblical boldness is actually a fruit of humility. Biblical boldness is the method humility utilizes in our obedience to God. It is an expression of self-denial as our flesh is crucified as we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
When we are bold as we obey our Lord we are often accused of being full of pride. Those opposed to our message use this argument as we proclaim the truth and refuse to compromise with those insisting that Christianity must contain multiple versions of “truth.” As Elijah stood in the gap against overwhelming numbers as well as spiritual oppression, we must remain humble and bold. If we become timid then we are operating from a base of fear and will become self-protective and will not obey God nor stand for His truth.
Our Lord was bold. He was never timid, but He was humble all the time. We are called to follow Him. His sheep know His voice and follow Him. In our following Him we are also to walk as He did. Did He give us examples to follow?
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-5 ESV)
Jesus knew He was about to be betrayed, tried, tortured, and executed. He knew that in His death He would be the Lamb of God whose sacrifice would take away the sins of the elect. His death would redeem those chosen before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4) Was fear present in Him? Jesus was fully Man and fully God. I am sure the Man part of Him knew all about fear. (Luke 22:44) However, in the hours before all of this, He poured Himself into His disciples. He cared for, prayed for, and taught them right up to the end. He selflessly protected them as He gave Himself up to those seeking His life. (John 18:4)
However, before that, He ate the Passover with His disciples. In that culture the roads were not paved and the people wore sandals. Their feet would become dirty. It was the job of the lowest servant in a house to wash the feet of guests. Peter and John had prepared the meal in the upper room as Jesus had directed. Jesus and the other disciples arrived later. No one was there to wash their feet. However, during the meal, Jesus arose, put aside His garments, and took a basin and towel to wash everyone’s feet, including those of Judas Iscariot.
Here was the Messiah, God’s beloved Son whose rightful place was on throne in Heaven with the Father, taking on the most humble of tasks in submitting to these men as their humble servant. What is this that He is teaching them and us?
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (John 13:6-11 ESV)
Peter reacted here in false humility. He was still operating from a base of pride, but did not realize it. Of course Jesus knew this and the act of submitting to Peter, being his servant by washing his feet, would pierce his heart by driving a wedge of softness into its hardness. His conscience would be pricked and the wall of hardness around his heart would begin to crumble. Jesus told Peter that he would not understand what He had done to him until later. Of course, we know that Peter also proclaimed that he would never abandon Jesus even if it meant death. That was also a proclamation from his pride. Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times. Peter did that very thing that night. As He denied Him the third time, the cock crowed and Jesus turned to look right at Peter. (Luke 22:54-62) This drove that softness further into Peter’s hardened heart dealing a deathblow to his pride. However, back at The Last Supper, Jesus has just finished washing the feet of His twelve disciples.
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 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. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:12-17 ESV)
I am pretty sure that these 12 men did not have a clue what Jesus had just taught them. They would not “get it” until after His death, burial, and resurrection. We are to be humble believers, not seeking our own in all of our relationships. Instead of being self-promoting and self-protective, we are to deny self, take up our crosses and follow our Lord. That means that we are not to live for self, but are to live for Him in our obedience by submitting to one another. When we serve everyone instead of demanding that we be served, we do to him or her as Jesus did to Peter. God uses us to drive His softness into their hardened hearts, pricking their consciences and beginning killing of their pride and cultivating their humility.
On the other hand, we are also supposed to submit to our enemies. Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot. Jesus knew that Judas was planning to betray Him yet He washed His feet anyway. Could we do the same? How do we treat those who are obviously our enemies or at least enemies of our message? We must tell them the truth, but we must not revert to the tactics of our enemy. Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal as they vainly tried to call fire down from their god to light their sacrificial fire. He knew that at the end of the day God’s judgment would fall on them. He knew they were of Satan’s seed. However, we have no idea whom God may draw to Himself from the ranks of the reprobate. Therefore, we must simply and boldly tell the truth and pray for our enemies.
Can we be gracious to these people and not compromise? I believe we can. I have listened to Dr. James White debate people who are obviously enemies of the truth. He is firm. He never compromises the truth. He is always gracious to them at the end. What happens when we do this? Doesn’t it also drive a wedge of God’s softness into their hearts? My experience is that when I do this I have had some people in dispute with my doctrinal position respond with softness. They don’t often agree with me, but their hostility evaporates.
However, there are others who are our declared enemies. We must be bold and firm with them and never compromise. However, there may be times when God will move us to simply turn from them after telling the truth. They are in God’s hands.
Let us draw near unto God, seek His face, repent of our self-focus, self-protection, and all of the fruit of pride that keeps our hearts hard and God’s light through us dim and fuzzy. After all, Jesus Christ is our all-in-all, but we are nothing at all.