Cause and effect

Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  -John 13:17 (NIV)

Reckon what must've been going through the minds of the apostles as Jesus rose from the Passover feast, stripped down to His skivvies, and started to wash their feet?

"Dang! We should've hired a servant when we booked this room!"

"I saw that towel, pitcher and basin on the way in - knew I should've done something with them!"

"Thaddeus and Little James probably had that assignment; bet they squirreled around and forgot!" 

"That's no job for the Master! Should I try and help Him now?"

Whatever they thought, they were about to learn one of the greatest lessons of their entire time with Jesus: The humility of servant leadership always has an impact. And in a way that is sometimes not intuitively obvious, that humility is the result of confidence. Jesus knew who He was. He didn't have to prove anything to anyone. He could lower Himself to do the work of a servant without introducing any doubt that He was completely in control of whatever situation He was in. He served because that's what He wanted to do.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  -John 13:12-14 (NIV)

Where did that "want to" come from? The fruit of the Spirit that was on display in that one act - love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control for sure (and probably a couple other examples had we been there to witness) - where did it come from? We could argue (and many have) - "Well, He was the Son of God. How else would He act?" True, but let's look beyond that. We know Jesus was fully divine AND fully human. The struggle of His humanity was evidenced in the Garden prayer.

So how did He find it in Himself, knowing His execution was literally hours away, to be gracious toward these guys who still didn't get why He had come and were still jockeying for position within the group? A key can be found in Jesus' practice of holy habits, the spiritual disciplines. Time and again throughout His ministry, we see Jesus taking time to meditate, pray, fast, serve, worship, celebrate, sabbath.

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  -John 13:15-16 (NIV)

The disclaimer here, of course, is that your results may vary. Depending on the motives and the level of committed focus I have toward spiritual disciplines, I may not see as much fruit as someone else (though it isn't a competition and it's highly unlikely I'll go empty-handed). Here's the point: When I see a life that is bearing the fruit, it's a sure bet that person has been practicing the spiritual disciplines.

Go back and listen to Stan's talk from May 3: If you're pressed for time, focus on the three minute segment starting at the 16-minute mark. Through study and meditation, the Spirit revealed to Stan that he was lacking in gentleness. He confessed that, looking at the evidence in his life and agreeing with the Spirit on that point. He repented, with a genuine desire to behave differently. He prayed diligently, continuing to study and serve. A year later, he realized that he was, in fact, a more gentle person, displaying compassion and care to people in his life that he cared about. Not only that, he was seeing more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Funny how that happens.

I have been struck with a thought coming out of Stan's talks. It's challenging me and I throw it out as something you may want to chew on for yourself. Am I the kind of person that makes Christianity attractive to others? What fruit do I need more of to make that a reality?

Scott Thompson