How Jesus embodied selflessness

How Jesus embodied selflessness

Written on 05/03/2021
Josiah Piett

Three rhythms every Christian should imitate

Written by Josiah Piett

What does it mean to follow Jesus’ way? Many followers of Jesus—including me—reduce our response to an abstract statement of loving God and loving people. True though it is, this teaching needs to become practical and detailed so we can live it out in the daily nuances of life.

Jesus shows us this practical way through His words and deeds. Often we can focus on His words and neglect His actions. Sometimes, this feels like the less intrusive option. Of course, Christ’s words can convict and inspire, but His actions draw us even further out of our comfort zones, often leaving us feeling inadequate.

We can forget that Jesus showed us what it looks like to live a perfect human life through His relationship with Father. While He lived on earth, Jesus embraced humanity, not divinity. Without understanding this, we sometimes write off Christ’s actions.

We see His miracles and healings as His divinity being revealed, and not as Him revealing the Father’s heart for humanity. But if the latter is true then this means we also as followers of Jesus have the opportunity to participate in what the Father is doing in our midst through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

To become a disciple of Jesus, we must learn from both His words and His actions. The purpose of these practices isn’t to earn favour, but to grow in intimacy with God. These habits and rhythms draw us closer to Him, giving us eyes to see, ears to hear, and the courage to participate in what He is doing in our midst.

The theologian Richard Foster categorizes spiritual disciplines as either disciplines of abstinence (not doing something) or disciplines of engagement (doing something). I want to discuss three disciplines of engagement I believe are essential in our walk with Jesus.

Showing up

I have found the discipline of showing up to be very transformative. Jesus gives us insights into the Father’s heart for humanity. He loves reconciliation, justice, and peace. We see Jesus showing up all over the place in the Gospels.

He showed up at the richest people’s homes and at places that were accessible for everyone. He showed up among people who were poor, destitute, demonized, sick, and outcast. He showed up in temples and streets. He also showed up for conversations with people who were powerful, religious and zealous—the go-getters of His context. He showed no partiality.

When we read the teachings and the actions of the Early Church in the New Testament, we see the call to show up in the spaces around us. For some, this may seem natural, while for others it will be a discipline. I don’t believe we are called to live our lives completely separate from those who aren’t following Jesus.

We all face the shared challenge of the Covid-19 restrictions. Yet we can still pay attention to those around us and consider where people gather and what spaces we can inhabit—just the way Jesus did.

Listening

Jesus appears fully present in whatever space He finds Himself in and listens to the Father’s guidance while there. Often, He interacts with people by asking questions. To listen is to pay attention. When we show up, we are to take the posture of listening. We shouldn’t enter spaces with an agenda to be heard or seen. It’s better to be humble, not assuming we know what is needed.

Jesus constantly asked the Father’s permission to speak and to display the kingdom through His actions. We see this throughout the New Testament. For example, Luke says in Acts 16:6 that the Holy Spirit forbade Paul and his friends from going to Asia at that time, instead directing them to a different city.

So, whether we as followers of Jesus show up at Black Lives Matter protests, our local soup kitchen, or the mall, we are to take a position of listening first to the Father and to those around us. We want to ask: What is the Father already doing here and how does He want me to participate? You might be surprised at how many times the answer is simply to sit, be present, and listen to the person in front of you. 

Being last

As we show up and listen, we are to actively look for ways to put others’ needs before our own in these places. We are secure in who we are as sons and daughters in Christ. As such, we aren’t showing up in these places to prove our authority, significance, or value. Just like our King, we should take the position of servants.

This can be as simple as letting someone in front of you at the grocery checkout. It can also involve actively looking for ways to empower those around you above yourself. It can be a humbling process. It’s also an opportunity to see Jesus more clearly.

In your relationship with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8).

We have an invitation to participate in the Father’s kingdom in our midst. As we practise these disciplines, our intimacy with Him and our participation in His Kingdom will continue to grow deeper. So, let’s show up in the spaces around us, ready to listen and humbly serve others.