There is hardly a page of the Gospels you can open without coming across either direct teaching from Jesus, or an example from his life, about the servant spirit that is to be at the core of our discipleship.
This was massively important to Jesus, and without it we cannot be his followers at all. On one occasion we read of his disciples arguing about which of them was the greatest: “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all’” (Mark 9:35). The “sitting down” indicates this to be a teaching, a serious instruction.
In his parables of the kingdom, Jesus speaks often of God as a master and of human beings as his servants. In teaching about the servant spirit, he tells us that we are to be humble and obedient servants of God, asking no reward but to do the Father’s will, which was how Jesus himself lived. But he asks us to go further than that, and extend the attitude of the servant spirit towards each other, humbly accepting the lowest place and the most menial tasks.
Not only will doing this make our homes and communities loving and harmonious, it will also protect our faith. So often people bitterly denounce God and turn away from him because of adversity, disappointment, or tragedy in their lives. They see God as a resource or commodity, there to ensure their personal happiness: the centre of their lives is themselves, not God. On one occasion, reporting at Sunday-morning church on a tent mission, one of the team said, “God was really working for us last night!” He saw no incongruity in his words. It is important for us to get things the right way round – only with God as master, and ourselves as humble servants, can we ever find contentment and peace.
How do you think we can fulfil Christ’s command to be the servants of one another without becoming exhausted and resentful? Where would you draw the line to set appropriate and healthy boundaries while at the same time maintaining a cheerful and humble servant spirit?
What do you think it really means, to take up our cross every day and follow Jesus?
If someone is a leader – the principal of a college, the chief executive of a company, the teacher of a class, or the parent of a family – in what way is it appropriate to express the servant spirit in that context?
O God our Father, how can we thank you enough for Jesus our Master and Lord, who came among us as a humble servant to set us free from sin and show us how to live in peace with one another? By your grace at work in our hearts, may we find the strength of spirit to humble ourselves as he did, and live as your faithful servants, kindly and cheerfully serving each other. For we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.