The Basin & Towel

"And the call is to community
 The impoverished power that
 sets the soul free. In
 humility, to take the vow, 
 that day after day we must
 take up the basin and towel."
      ~Michael Card~

Servant's Heart

Living the Christian life is not rocket science or brain surgery.

We have a tendency to complicate the daylights out of it, but it boils down to the practical application of basic principles.

For example, how many of us get down and discouraged with life? What do we do in response to the blues?

Here are ten life-affirming rules to deal with the blues: Go out and do something for someone else, then repeat it nine times.

That’s what living our faith in Christ is all about—serving others; putting others first; doing for others.

Servanthood is represented by the basin and towel. That imagery comes from the example Jesus set in an Upper Room with his friends. Just hours before his betrayal, he removed his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, filled a basin with water, and proceeded to wash his disciples’ feet.

What Jesus did in that particular instance was an exclamation point on his entire ministry that went far beyond the ritual of foot-washing. Christ’s model speaks to an attitude of the heart which is expressed in our lifestyle choices.

In first-century Palestine, it was customary for the host to provide servants with water and oil to wash his guest’s feet when they entered. When the disciples gathered for what we refer to as the Last Supper, that didn’t occur.

In that Upper Room, Jesus—motivated by love and love alone—responded to a need. He also seized an opportunity to emphasize a crucial lesson for his disciples, both those present and the ones who would become believers due to their testimony.

The lesson: We are not to elevate ourselves above anyone or think ourselves too good or better than anyone.

If Christ—the incarnate Son of God—would bend low and do the work of a servant, where do any of us ever get off thinking we are better than anyone or above any task that needs to be done?

Christ had a servant’s heart. Living the Christian life means we must develop and reflect a servant’s heart that reaches out to our hurting and broken world.

"More people have been
 brought into the church by
 the kindness of real
 Christian love than by all
 the theological arguments in
 the world, and more people
 have been driven from the 
 church by the hardness and
 ugliness of so-called
 Christianity than by all the
 doubts in the world."
      ~William Barclay~

 

Romans 12:9-21 - NIV

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 "And the space between
  ourselves sometimes is more
  than the distance between 
  the stars. By the fragile
  bridge of the Servant's 
  bow we take up the basin
  and the towel."
       ~Michael Card~

Submission & Surrender

For believers in Christ, everything we do must be rooted in love and love alone, motivated by love and love alone. Not the kind of love that is pretend and make believe—not the kind of love that expresses itself once a year at a foot-washing service, but rather, the kind of love that spontaneously responds to needs.

The passage cited above, written by the tentmaker apostle, Paul of Tarsus, is not talking about going through the motions of love. We all know how to play that game; we all know what words to say, what expressions to make, what masks to wear.

Paul is exhorting us to cultivate the kind of love that doesn’t quit when things get tough. He’s referring to a down in the trenches of relationships kind of love that works through personality conflicts and differences of opinion in a way that honors God.

The love presented by Paul is about us joyfully lowering ourselves to elevate others—willingly surrendering our rights, as Christ freely surrendered and set aside his majesty to purchase our salvation.

Christianity—the way of the cross, the basin and towel—is all about submission and surrendering our rights.

That’s a difficult message to hear, especially for the self-absorbed North American church. All evidence shows that we are more concerned with preserving and sustaining our comfortable lifestyles than we are with any message that challenges us into genuine community.

We are more concerned with our individual rights than with community needs; with making sure our voice is heard and our opinion is expressed loud and clear. We defend our fierce independence always.

Confession: I am guilty of all the above failings as much as anyone. In some cases, perhaps more so—we are all works in progress. On this matter, I’m with Mark Twain who said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me. It’s the parts that I do understand.”

Love Is A Verb

Humility and setting aside our rights are completely foreign concepts to human nature. Our pride rises up and demands that we be number one—we watch out for number one.

Yet Paul wrote to the Romans and to us: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

We are to embody those words and live them out. How does that translate in the real world?

That’s where the rubber hits the proverbial road. We can talk about love and sing about love and go through the motions of love, but for it to be authentic we must apply it. Love is a verb, an action word.

Love must be sincere, love must be real. For that to be so, love must bubble up from within us—it must be an extension of who we are in the well of our hearts, because what’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.

What’s inside us will come out in actions and attitudes. If an ever growing and ever expanding love is at our core, then the principles of servanthood are present and displayed in our lives.

However, if self-centeredness has settled at the base of who we are, then that is what will play itself out in our lives, no matter how fast we dance or how hard we try to fake love.

Living out love is often difficult. Does God's grace meet us at those places where we fail?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Hope So
  • No Opinion
See results without voting

Servanthood

Do we honor one another above ourselves? Or are we inclined to stake out our position and then protect it to the hilt?

Servanthood—the basin and towel—is about allowing the mysterious power of God to be at work within us, changing us little by little, bit by bit.

Christ must stand at the center of our lives; love for Christ must be our sole motivation. Maintaining and nurturing that love for Christ demands ceaseless vigilance.

We need habitual reminders that the basin and towel is not about gritting our teeth to do what must be done, but about acting out our love for Christ over and over again.

Loving Christ and allowing ourselves to be loved by Christ will set transformation loose in our lives. It won’t happen with the snap of a finger or wave of a magic wand. It’ll be a timely process, but as we are faithful we will grow in grace and love.

Reflecting a servant’s heart occurs when we take advantage of opportunities to put into action Paul’s instructions:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.”

It’s not brain surgery and it’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy. If it were, we’d all be more effective living out what we say we believe. The great good news is that where faith meets reality there is overwhelming grace to keep us pressing on.

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Comments 34 comments

Putz Ballard profile image

Putz Ballard 6 years ago

Great truths from the Bible


Hmrjmr1 profile image

Hmrjmr1 6 years ago from Georgia, USA

Ken - some great examples and lessons that serve as a good and helpful reminder even to those who try to walk this walk in their lives. GBY!


UlrikeGrace profile image

UlrikeGrace 6 years ago from Canada

Ken, I have read three hubs this morning and amazingly the thrust of each has been to focus on what God wants us to do for others rather than look after #1, ourselves. Your hub encapsulated the message perfectly...the basin & the towel...I really liked Michael Cards song...perfect...now to go do what I agreed with so heartily here. :)

I also want to ask...you said, When the disciples gathered for what we refer to as the Last Supper, that didn’t occur.

Okay, that caught my attention..."that didn't occur?" Do you think you could explain this? Am interested to hear what you meant by that. Thanks

Blessings to you


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Putz.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Hammerjammer - Thanks. Glad you stopped in & shared. Blessings.


Devin Thomas 6 years ago

The idea that "love is a verb" is without a doubt true, yet I worry about your statement: "What do we do in response to the blues? . . . Go out and do something for someone else, then repeat it nine times."

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:43-48 that much of our "doing good to others" fails to achieve the level of Christian service. Serving compassionately doesn't just mean that we "go out and do" just to "cure our blues" -- it means that we invest time, effort, and a profound sense of care into the lives of our sisters and brothers. We work out of our own brokenness, recognizing that we are all broken people in need of redemption and reconciliation unto God and one another. And we do it all through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power to place others at the fore of our lives.

Thanks for these potent reminders, Ken. Good piece.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

UlrikeGrace - Thank you for sharing. In reference to your question, what didn't occur, was the custom of the host washing or having a servant wash the guest's feet. Therefore, Jesus fulfilled that need by doing so himself.

Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Devin - Thanks for your thoughtful comments. You ought not worry about my statement--especially in the context of the very next sentence: "That’s what living our faith in Christ is all about—serving others; putting others first; doing for others."

I'd argue that it is always spiritually/emotionally healthy to do for others. In doing so, praxis takes place.

Blessings.


RevLady profile image

RevLady 6 years ago from Lantana, Florida

A wonderful hub Ken that discourages self-pity and encourages a redirection of energy in a positive growth inducing way. Thank you.

Forever His,


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

RevLady - Thank you. Blessings.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

A very good hub, Ken. You strike solidly at something that I have always believed in terms of religion and humanity. Ultimately, for all we do, God will judge us most by how we have treated each other. He put us here in the name of faith, hope, and love. Common sense should tell us that those values should be the planks in our platform of life. You shed a strong light on that need. Thank You! WB


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Wayne - Thank you. I appreciate your insights & perspective. It boggles my mind how easy it is for human beings to loose sight of our common humanity. Blessings.


coffeesnob 6 years ago

Ken,

I have been thinking a lot about servanthood and trying to deepen my practice of it and I think for me I have discovered that it includes the practice of faithfulness-it's not that I am not a faithful person, it is that I want to practice these things you mentioned, i.e hospitatlity, surrender of my rights, spontaneous response to needs of others etc...faithfully. A faithful servant does all these even when he/she doesn't feel like it. And I, like you must confess some shortcomings here.. Thanks for the hub it was insightful and purposeful

CS


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

CS - Thank you for sharing thoughtful comments. I think you are exactly right. Blessings.


Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

Excellent hub! You presented each sub category perfectly in a way easily understood, but highly challenging! Thank you Ken, for your service to God and for helping us along the way! I love that you made it clear that love is a verb. It's an action that is our choice to make!

Great job!


PinanShodan profile image

PinanShodan 6 years ago

Hey Ken,

Awesome hub, yea exactly it is about serving others to praise God for what he so freely gave us and never taking credit for anything we have done but solely giving credit to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amazing Grace How Sweet The Sound That Saved A Wretch Like Me.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Ann Nonymous - Thank you for your very kind & generous comments. Much appreciated. Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

PinanShodan - Thank you. And amen to your word. Blessings.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

Thoughtful post!!


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

My life is not my own. It's just a tool or a vessel. Thanks Ken!


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

Brother Ken, to serve as Our Lord served, recognizing that is what we are called to do, is it's own reward. Everytime we serve out of love we gain one more step to becoming like Christ.

Bro Dave.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Ken, I had a long time with a Christian counselor today and we discussed some of these very things. Love is the motivation to serve. This hub is very special covering a broad area of service. Thanks for a great reminder of the path before me. God Bless.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Carolina Muscle - Thank you.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Mickey Dee - You're welcome. Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Amen, Dave. Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Pamela. Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Blessings.


heart4theword profile image

heart4theword 6 years ago from hub

The basin and the towel, I think, if Christ were to wash my feet, I would be sitting in a puddle of tears! Another Great Hub, Ken:)


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

heart4theword - Thank you. Blessings.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Great Hub. Linking it to mine on Maundy Thursday.

Love and peace

Tony


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Tony. Blessings.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Ken, I love this hub It hits the nail square and hard. Mickey Dee ans I have been counting the number of times the "Golden Rule" is mentioned in the scriptures. I think I ran up on it three times last week. Not searching but reading and there it is again. You think that it was meant to be found? I hear folks wishing they knew why, or the meaning of life, well you just spelled it out. People ask me why does God let humanity suffer so, the real question is "why does humanity let each other suffer so." We've got a sitting president saying he's going to force folks to share, even if he had a pure heart with divine will he couldn't force anyone to do what you have described here. I'm not saying the prez is one way or the other, I'm just saying the world is no different today than in the days Jesus walked, they didn't see, wouldn't hear and in finality killed him. Do you think if he just showed up and began his task again it would be different?

Peace, dusty


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Dusty - Thanks for your deep & thoughtful words. Much appreciated. I think the profound simplicity of the Golden Rule is the key. If we'd just take that seriously & attempt to apply it, how much more peaceful would life be?


A M Werner profile image

A M Werner 6 years ago from West Allis

Great hub Ken. It can be very tempting to allow ritual to become an absolver of sins, when in fact the very acts which created the rituals are the practices we should be living by - day by day. It can be difficult at first to embrace a servant mind but eventually, when we give our service up to the idea of love, unrequited love in His Name, we feel the spiritual fulfillment of outreach. Every day we are indeed offered opportunities to be Christlike. We shouldn't have to think about it as much as simply becoming it. Peace.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

AM - Thank you. Appreciate it. And you are exactly right, it's an everyday opportunity. Blessings.

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