What does it mean to be a Christian? {Easter Thoughts}

Am I a Christian because I go to church on Sunday (and many of the other days)? Am I a Christian because of what I think about Jesus? Because I celebrate Christmas and Easter? Because I was raised to be a Christian? (I wasn’t, actually.)

I am a Christian because I believe Jesus is the Son of God, He is MY God. I have answered the great call to Follow Jesus. But as we slide down the last days of Lent into Easter weekend, I thinking about how easy it is for Christians to live as functional non-believers – myself included. We say we follow Jesus, but our lives bear no mark of Him. What better time than Easter weekend to contemplate what it really means to be a Christian, to follow Jesus.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would 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, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded…

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.

Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John 13:1-17)

Jesus loved by lowering. John sees the love of Christ in the kneeling, serving Jesus. Jesus stripped, laying aside the garments of leader and teacher and taking the costume of a servant. Jesus washed even the feet of His betrayer, demonstrating love and service even for the hands that would slay Him.

Too often our love seeks to control rather than serve. To dress us up rather than strip us down. Too often our love is choosy, only bestowed on the “deserving”, on those who will love us back.

To follow Jesus, who do I need to serve? What garments do I need to take off? How can I demonstrate love and service even to those who hurt me?

This Easter, how low am I willing to go?

 Jesus knew who He was. The Message version of John 13:3 says that Jesus knew “He came from God and was on his way back to God…” Jesus knew who He was in relation to God, He knew whose He was. And He knew where He was going. His serving, lowering love was rooted in confidence in His Father’s love and care for Him. In a world of achievement, power, and rising up, trust in God’s love was the safety net that allowed Jesus to cast Himself down in service and self-giving love.

To follow Jesus, I need to be confident that I belong to God. That I came from God and am going home to Him. Can I turn from the world of achievement, power, and rising up and let God’s love be my safety net as I cast myself down in service and self-giving love?

This Easter, I will praise God that I know who I am, whose I am, and where I am going. 

Jesus intended us to follow His example. When I think about world-changers, I think about high achievers, strong performers, the creme of the crop with power and influence and a following. Sometimes I think the call of Jesus is “the bigger the better.” But Jesus puts on this play, demonstrating to His first followers what He was calling them too. Not power or influence or glory, but to acting as servants, following Him into a life of self-giving love. And that is how the world was changed by those first Christ followers – not through power or greatness or influence, but through love and service.

To follow Jesus, I turn from the desire to be great. I choose to be small, and to trust in God’s ways of loving, sacrificial service.

This Easter, I will look for ways to be small. To serve others, to lift others up. Not because I am small, but because I know that I am greatly loved, safe & secure. Life is found in following Jesus’ example.

The drama of the towel provided an example for the disciples to replicate:

  • Replicate the truth that you have come from God; you are not your own.
  • Replicate the truth that you will go to God; your future is assured.
  • Replicate that the space between you and others is filled with a towel.
  • Replicate that as you travel with towel and basin, you will be safe in vulnerability, treasured in obedience, and free from anxiety.

Jesus offered an example to his disciples that was a sharp alternative to all the available models around him… In his great act of humility and washing, he broke with all the models of humanity that are visible in our own time and place: the rat race of productivity, the fear for survival, the frenzy of accumulation, and the deathly sense of self-sufficiency.

(Walter Brueggemann, A Way other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent)

This Sunday I will go to church. I will believe and think about Jesus. I will celebrate Easter. But I hope to also be shaped by Jesus, so that I can live a life that truly follows Him. I hope I can find some feet to wash.


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