Sunday, April 02, 2006

Servanthood and Submission

Every now and then, I would hear stories of people working in places where they do not want to be, and friends yearning for a ‘someday’ but not quite living today because they lose interest in what they are studying. I feel their physical exhaustion from work- and of mine, simply by just writing about it. None of it gives me pleasure, only sharp pricks and nervousness.

Given a choice, no one would want to spend a good 40 years trapped in this mundane cycle called ‘work’. “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” The book of Ecclesiastes read.

Yet, what work really is; we have lost our grasping of delighting in it. Work is after all, ordained by God. When God created Adam, he did not give him Eve immediately, He put Adam in the Garden of Eden to tend it first (What a way to grapple the biblical sense of mission before mate). However, like all other human activity ordained by God, Sin has crept in and twisted the good of work. Work becomes toil; and more often than not, bears fruitlessness in joy and passion. Work becomes ‘do’ rather than, ‘desiring to do’.

We, being servants and coworkers of God; no longer feel we are serving the King but the Pharoah. We seem to be dragging our feet from stone to stone and in the midst of it, we murmur with contempt.

But, it is during these moments that we need to reconcile between work, servanthood and our relationship with God. While Jesus was having a Passover meal with His disciples; He demonstrated the ultimate act of servanthood to men by washing their feet. Washing feet was symbolically the lowliest act in the Jewish household. To the disciples who called Him ‘Lord’, how could they allow Him do such an unthinkable act? “You shall never wash my feet,” protested Peter. “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me”, Jesus said to him.

Jesus’ love is unlike what we can give without feeling the pinch. He asked us to love our enemies. He washed the disciples’ feet. Later, he demonstrated the ultimate act of servanthood to God, by laying down His life at the cross for us.

The truth is, reality confronts us in this manner- not everyone gets to do what they want for a living. I struggle with this bold assertion as much as one that yearns to find liberation in doing something else. But, my understanding of a sovereign God speaks volumes to me. Where God has placed Adam, there he worked. Servanthood demands total allegiance and obedience to his Master.

But we are not dealing with just any master who is not interested in what we are passionate for. The gifts that we have- are they not from Him? Yet, the catch here is to respond to a love that demands of submission and servanthood.

This form of submission tugs the heart between flesh and spirit. It is no longer what I want, but what He wants to fulfill through me- so to speak. It is the act of putting death to self and laying down life for friends.

It is the call to love others in a way no one would have expected, in which God Himself has shown us, through His commandments, exemplified by the cross.

And finally, it is about seeking His glory above all else. Just as Jesus rose gloriously from the dead, vindicated for His work on the cross, we too, shall be vindicated; through the knowledge of the rich purpose that God has set for us from where we are.

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