By Courtney Lee
“Yes, of course I remember that night. . . . It started with Jesus asking John and me to go on ahead and get the Passover meal prepared. We had become accustomed to asking strangers odd things at this point. It was going fine until Jesus made it very apparent we had forgotten one important detail: someone to clear the dust off everyone’s feet. Usually it would have been the duty of the servants of the host but since we were borrowing this upper room, we forgot to ask. I was embarrassed when Jesus took off his robe and began to prepare the water. This was my fault and I couldn’t believe, out of everyone, He was the one who was going to do this menial task–on Passover night, of all times! I had wanted everything to be perfect; I knew our time together was running out and yet, the night started on the wrong foot, on everyone’s feet, actually. I was so ashamed that I didn’t even want Him to even touch me, let alone wash my feet. But, as He always did, Jesus began to peel back the layers of my pride as He gently wiped the dirt from my feet. He told me that I wouldn’t understand at that moment but someday it would make sense. I continued to protest and He continued to persist. Finally, I gave in and submitted myself to Him. The guilt in me wished for a full bath instead of a simple foot washing. He showed me the full extent of His love.
I wish I could say that moment changed me but after only a few hours, during a late night prayer time, Jesus was taken from me. I was tired. It had been a long, full day both physically and emotionally. My feet were clean but my heart was still a mess. So I did what I had always done: fight and defend, close myself off, do what I thought was best, and try not to feel. I showed up at the courtyard determined I could do something to save Jesus. I could find a way. I would do whatever it took. He needed me, right? Instead, I heard the crow of the rooster . . .
My humility came at a cost. Jesus was right. I didn’t understand until much later.”
Pride has a way of shutting off all the other voices in our lives and turning up the microphone of our own inner monologue. It convinces us that we are right. It persuades us that another’s view is skewed. It whispers inflated lies that we are more important, more right, and more deserving than them. It boasts of power and presence. It manipulates good intentions into acts of selfishness.
In the context of 1 Corinthians 13, this imperative statement of what love is not, is integral into the type of love Paul is charging this fractured Corinthian church with living. “Love is not . . . boastful or proud . . .” (verse 4, NLT). I imagine Paul visualizing his dear brothers and sisters in this precious church as he sandwiched these words between the topics of spiritual gifts and speaking in tongues. Those things mattered as they sorted out first generational church life, but the church could not forget what started it all: love. Jesus came and physically showed the extent of God’s love. Now that He was ascended to Heaven, it was Paul’s job to help put the church to work continuing to freely express that love to all. None of the work would matter without love. And love can’t be expressed by boasting or in pride.
There’s a question I ask my kids often, “Would you rather be right or have a friend right now?” I think it’s a great question for all of us to ask of ourselves during this time when every day brings about a new situation in which we have to decide where we stand. These daily decisions are creating divisions in all sectors of our society. This love that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13 is showcased and modeled in John 13 — Jesus shows his disciples “the full extent of His love” (v. 1) by sacrificially serving His disciples and tells them, “And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. . . . Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” (v. 14-15, 17, NLT)
The blessing is not in the knowing but the knowing AND doing. Love is both an attitude AND an action.
True, authentic love is so rich and so full that it leaves no room for self. Love suffocates pride. But unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If we are to love without boasting or pride, there has to be a death to self. The inner monologue must be replaced with God dialogue. There has to be a new attitude of “I’m not right about everything,” and “I can change.” It values other’s viewpoints and unique life experiences. This death to self leads to the ability for true relationship, for true love– within our families, our marriages, our communities, and our churches. The benefits are peace and promise. Good intentions turn into acts of obedience.
“I will not boast in anything. No gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer, But this I know with all my heart. His wounds have paid my ransom.”-”How Deep the Father’s Love,” Stuart Townsend