Resurrected Community: A SOAP Study on John 13

ScriptureJohn 13:1-9

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!

Observation:

While much attention in this passage is given to the washing of feet, it’s interesting to note the towel’s contextual significance in the moment and beyond. With His hour rapidly approaching, Jesus knew now was the time to prepare His disciples for life post-resurrection; however, He also knew ‘now’ was not yet the time to commission them for evangelism. Accordingly, Jesus, through the towel, opted to preview the next ~40 days, a stretch during which He wouldn’t evangelize, but strengthen His community as a future colony of heaven (i.e. Kingdom community)12.

Having said that, before we can dive further into “towel theology” (i.e. the towel as a communal template to daily rising with Christ), we must first talk about what Christ sought to model through it.

Consider this: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most powerful event that this planet has ever witnessed. Yet, as for who actually ‘saw’ the resurrection? Nobody but a couple of awe-struck Roman soldiers who in a matter of hours would go from literally trembling in fear to lying about what they had seen. One would think the lives of these guards would instantaneously change à la Paul’s conversion, but truth is the power of the resurrection didn’t change them at all.

Of course, none of this was a surprise to God given He knew what the soldiers denied would be what many believed as they experienced His transformational love working through human hearts3; still, the takeaway here is while Christ’s resurrection was certainly a powerful moment in history, it wasn’t the greatest demonstration of divine power. Rather, as we’ll soon see, the cross,  paved the way for the greatest force of divine power – sustainable agape love.

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Application:

The application is simple: To be raised with Christ is to build His community as Jesus did after His resurrection.

“If then you have been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead, walk in newness of life and seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” ~ Colossians 2:12, Colossians 3:1, Romans 6:4 (Blended ESV)

Again, we may think the key to being on mission with God is effective evangelism, but when we consider how Paul and early church perceived being raised with Christ, we find the critical priority to be the community of Jesus serving one another in love with evangelism as the overflow. For when a genuine Christ community exists that’s all the Holy Spirit needs to impact the cultural community it exists in.

Therefore, we must be careful we don’t abuse evangelism as a promotional means to add to ‘our’ number, but rather allow the Spirit to awaken eyes to see the love we have for one another. This, I suggest, was the center of Paul’s approach to mission – we don’t build a colony of heaven through forced rhythms of effort, but instead build Christ’s community through unforced rhythms of service laden with love, kindness, and compassion. Doing this, as Paul saw it, was the way a local church could reflect heaven on earth and the way the Spirit could spread this light into new places.

As for the body of Christ, the recipe for cultural transformation is straightforward: To build communities of agape love and to let the Spirit establish them as colonies of heaven. For as we know, in this life we are plagued by worldly structures bent on dominating, manipulating, and controlling through destructive systems of independence yielding cultures of anxiety, fear, hatred, and pride. However, by living confidently in the assurance of our guaranteed future (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 4:16, Hebrews 11:1), we can be free to accept a Kingdom, ‘crucified and raised in Christ’ structure as the framework by which we love and serve – a structure that proclaims the good news in this way: We are free because we’re helpless, free because we’re confident, free because we’re crucified in Christ, and free because we’ve been raised with Christ, the foundation to being a Jesus community4. Once we accept our helplessness, then we can better depend on the Holy Spirit, rest in our future completion, and serve in present love.

Paul describes this endgame in Galatians 5:13 and 6:2:

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” ~ Galatians 5:13

If you bear one another’s burdens, if you love by serving each other, you’ll stay in the Spirit and remain in alignment with Christ and so fulfill the law of Christ.” ~ Galatians 6:2 (paraphrased)

With Christ’s resurrection in mind, the core of being a community of Christ is experiencing the law of Christ as loving one another by serving one another…

…which brings us to why Jesus took the towel in John 13. 

While many are quick to emphasize Jesus’ humility and modeling of submissive service, what’s often missed is how the washing of His disciples’ feet clinched the founding of His community. Backtrack to v. 3 and we find our first sign of evidence: Jesus knew the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going back to God. This is the real reason why Jesus took the towel5 – to not only achieve a timely metaphor, but to unveil a central commandment (i.e. ‘love one another’) that would soon become the cornerstone of Christianity.

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Remember up until their feet were washed, the disciples were followers, but not a following of disciple-makers. When Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash His feet, Jesus said, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with me‘. Why? Because love through serving was the foundation Jesus was laying. In other words, Jesus knew convicting Peter to helplessness would open him up to radical dependence. We see this instantly when Peter replies, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head‘. Yet, even at the utter of this imperative, little did Peter realize this act of total dependence would result in radical freedom, a newness of life where he could experience life as a new human serving and loving.

As Peter discovered, the implications of this reality, specifically how we do church, is huge. In a world screaming ‘make your life count’, it’s worth noting the early church would not have understood such dogma. To them, one didn’t try to make a difference, but rather let their love through service be the difference. As such, having embraced their identity as a resurrection community – a community who loves and serves in the moment – their operation as the new humanity would ultimately revolutionize arguably the world’s greatest superpower in history.

Bottom line: What Jesus did in John 13 went far beyond washing a few stinky feet.

Rather by exchanging outer garment for towel…

  1. He revealed what resurrection community would soon look like – a ‘walk in the Spirit’, ‘serve your spouse, forgive your brother, love your enemy’ way of living far contrary to the ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ lifestyle we know today.
  2. He connected repentance to not only being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2), but also celebrating our helplessness, dependence, and freedom to be a John 13:35 community so, “by this all people will know that [we are His] disciples, [by our] love for one another.”
  3. He redefined church as a body of believers becoming the colony of heaven on earth by living in the Spirit (i.e. daily dying and rising with Christ).

Selah.

Prayer:

Footnotes

  1. As would soon emerge through the Holy Spirit
  2. Not to suggest we don’t prioritize evangelism; after all, the Holy Spirit’s coming was so we could be empowered to be Christ’s witnesses.
  3. Remember after Christ’s resurrection, Jesus not only prepared a community the Holy Spirit would eventually come upon in Acts 2, but also a unified body transformed by Christ’s love as a testament to God’s existence.
  4. Inspired by Messenger Fellowship’s ‘Being the Community of Jesus’ module.
  5. Side note: I love how this moment captures Christ’s baptism and brings it full circle (more on this in a future post).
Photo creds: Highland Park United Methodist Church
*Content inspired by Messenger Fellowship’s ordination course*

 

 

Bearing Forbearance: A SOAP Study on Philippians 4:4-5

Scripture: Phil. 4:4-5

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” (ESV)

d – or gentleness (NIV) or graciousness (HCSB) or considerate (NLT)

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” (MSG)

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. ” (AMP)

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice. Let your [b]forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (ASV)

Other mentions of forbearance…

✓ O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach.” ~ Jeremiah 15:15

✓ Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” ~ Romans 2:4

✓ Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” ~ Romans 3:25

✓ Where your fathers tried Me by testing [My forbearance and tolerance], And saw My works for forty years [And found I stood their test].” ~ Hebrews 3:9

✓ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.” ~ Colossians 3:12–13 1

Observations:

1. Forbearance, a word generally found in the King James Version, has two meanings: One is to delay repayment of a debt and the second is an attribute of God’s nature, specifically holding back rightful judgment in favor of patience, mercy, and kindness.

2. Forbearance’s short-term benefit is repentance and its long-term benefit is freedom.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, KJV).

In this instance, Paul is warning us not to confuse a delay in discipline/judgment as disinterest or a lack of grace. Instead, Paul is emphasizing the fact we should forbear to judge others given God is constantly forbearing in judging the world.

3. Forbearance is a versatile quality God highly esteems. In fact, several of its facets connect to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. Whether manifest as patience, endurance or gentleness, forbearance is woven throughout the Bible (Proverbs 25:15Ephesians 4:2).

Applications:

1. We live in a world where much comes down to bandwidth and margin. Whether in business, law, or real estate, we tend to think of forbearance has a negative term as it implies the inevitability of a negative outcome…a turning over the keys, if you will. And I think for many of us this results in seeing forbearance as a surrender of control when it reality it’s a surrender of immediate judgment.

Conviction: We talk about making room for Jesus (“prepare Him room” – a popular phrase in worship circles), but often we don’t emphasize making room for forgiveness. Forbearance, while a present action, invests in the future and says when someone wrongs me…when someone offends me…I’m going to be ready. Not for retaliation, not for revenge or manipulation, but for patient grace, for meekness as the model of humility. Hence, why forbearance is an extension of 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Forbearance has been said to be a honorary fruit of the Spirit; however, the more I think about it, forbearance is perhaps better described as a fruit basket of the Spirit.

2. A repeated command in Scripture is “wait on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14Proverbs 20:221 Corinthians 4:5Isaiah 40:31). Thus, it could be said…

God requires us to wait upon Him in order to help us develop forbearance.

For when we wait upon the Lord, we ultimately increase our capacity to forbear with those around us (1 Peter 3:8).

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Furthermore, sometimes the best place/time to wait on the Lord is when we’re working. As a finance employee, being single-focused on a particular task can come in handy, not only for the job at hand, but in my aim to hear God. Sure, there may be days I feel I’m sinking in the mud of mundanity; however, if I choose to see my effort as an opportunity to listen to my Creator, not only will I develop a more sensitive ear, but a more forbearing heart in the sense I’m cultivating yieldedness as opposed to self-sufficient tolerance.

3. If we’re meant to bear fruit, each others burdens, and with each other in love with all humility and patience forsaking self-righteousness, then forbearance helps get us there. It’s embracing the fact we can reflect the very nature of God without using it our advantage (Phil 2:6-8) as we make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). It’s a remarkable tool in our spiritual arsenal as it flips the legal IOU mentality for a selfless IOU reality that says. ‘I owe you nothing more than what God shows me every day.’

4. Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s easy to ‘conditional-ize’ forbearance among those we’re comfortable with. We compartmentalize and ration it as we please…as we see fit. I’m sure many of us have seen this demonstrated in secular settings…in the workplace…in the field and beyond. And part of this ties to the obvious…not all are saved, following the Lord, or aiming to be like him so we can’t expect to be on the receiving end of what, rather who, we’re trying to emulate.

At the same time, we can’t give up in being the change we crave, specifically respect to forbearance, being an agent of unbiased unity. When we zoom at Philippians 4 as a whole, note how Paul structures the chapter. Before he talks about how to think and act purely, how he’s learned to be content in all things…how he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him, he first talks about being united. He’s taking vacuum out of the equation.

Forbearance isn’t an exclusive right or privilege, it’s part of a corporate calling that goes beyond the bandwidths and margins we so often quantify. If we truly want to lead a full life, we must be open to full kindness as it’s part of how God leads us to repentance. And shouldn’t we ultimately want this for everyone?

Bottom line: The bridge between being ‘slow to anger’ and ‘abounding in love’ (Psalm 86:15) is forbearance.

Prayer: (see 20:51-22:19)

Footnotes

  1. The New Living Translation words it this way: Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
Photo creds: Wallpaper Studio 10