For the past week I’ve been reading Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation, in which he points out that we, as true followers of Christ, should be imitators of our Lord by becoming servants to others. I’ve had it on my mind all week..
Because of that, while browsing online this afternoon the chapter on the willingness to become bondservants, from the little book The Calvary Road by Roy Hession, caught my attention. Thought someone else might enjoy reading it…
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”. Philippians 2: 3-8
Nothing is clearer from the New Testament than that the Lord Jesus expects us to take the low position of servants.
This is not just an extra obligation, which we may or may not assume as we please, it is the very heart of that new relationship which the disciple is to take up if he is to know fellowship with Christ and any degree of holiness in his life.
When we understand the humbling and self-emptying that is involved in really being a servant, it becomes evident that only those who are prepared to live under the shadow of Calvary, ever contemplating the humility and self sacrificing brokenness of the Lord Jesus for us, will be willing to accept that position.
As we approach this subject and its personal application to our lives, there are three preliminary things which need to be said to prepare us to understand the low and humbling position which He wants us to take.
In the Old Testament two sorts of servants are mentioned. There are the hired servants, who have wages paid to them and have certain rights. Then there are the bond-servants, or slaves, who have no rights, who receive no wages and who have no appeal. The Hebrews were forbidden ever to make bond-servants of their own race; only of the Gentiles were they permitted to take such slaves.
When, however, we come to the New Testament, the word in the Greek for the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ is not ” hired servant ” but ” bond-servant,” by which is meant to be shown that our position is one where we have no rights and no appeal, where we are the absolute property of our Master, to be treated and disposed of as He wishes.
Further, we see more clearly still what our position is to be when we understand that we are to be the bond-servants of the One who was Himself willing to he a bond-servant. Nothing shows better the amazing humility of the Lord Jesus, whose servants we are, than that “though He was in the form of God, He counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself and took upon Him the form of a bondservant “ (Phil. 2 : 6 – 7) – without rights, willing to be treated as the will of the Father and the malice of men might decree, if only He might thereby serve men and bring them back to God. And you and I are to be the bond-servants of Him who was a bondservant, whose disposition is ever that of humility and whose activity is ever that of humbling Himself to serve His creatures.
How utterly low, then, is our true position! How this shows us what it means to be ruled by the Lord Jesus!
That leads us to something further. Our servanthood to the Lord Jesus is to express itself in our servanthood to our fellows.
Says Paul, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus, the Lord, and ourselves your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” The low position we take toward the Lord Jesus is judged (by Him) by the low position we take in our relationship with our fellows. An unwillingness to serve others in costly humility, He takes to be an unwillingness to serve Him, and we thus put ourselves out of fellowship with Him.
God spoke to me some time ago through Luke 17: 7-10;
” But which of you, having aservant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.”
I see here five marks of the bond-servant.
First, he must be willing to have one thing on top of another put upon him, without any consideration being given him. On top of a hard day in the field the servant in the parable had immediately to prepare his master’s meal, and then he had to wait at table – and all that before he had had any food himself. He just went and did it, expecting nothing else. How unwilling we are for this! How quickly there are murmurings and bitterness in our hearts when that sort of thing is expected of us. But the moment we start murmuring, we are acting as if we had rights, and a bond-servant hasn’t any!
Secondly, in doing this he must be willing not to be thanked for it. How often we serve others, but what self pity we’ll have in our hearts and how bitterly we’ll complain that they take it as a matter of course and do not thank us for it. But a bond-servant must be willing to accept that. Hired servants may expect something, but not bondservants.
Thirdly, having done all this, he must not charge the other with selfishness. As I read the passage, I couldnot but feel that the master was rather selfish and inconsiderate. But there is no such charge from the bondservant. He exists to serve the interests of his master… But we? We can perhaps allow ourselves to be ” put upon ” by others, and are willing perhaps not to be thanked for what we do, but how we charge the other in our minds with selfishness! But that is not the place of a bond-servant.
He is to find in the selfishness of others but a further opportunity to identify himself afresh with His Lord as the servant of all.
But there is a fourth step still to which we must go.
Having done all that, there is no ground for pride or self-congratulations, but we must confess that we are unprofitable servants, that is, that we are of no real use to God or man in ourselves. We must confess again and again that “in us, that is in our flesh, there dwelleth no good thing,” that if we have acted thus, it is no thanks to us, whose hearts are naturally proud and stubborn, but only to the Lord Jesus who dwells in us and who has made us willing.
Self is quite knocked out by the fifth and last step – the admission that in doing and bearing what we have in the way of meekness and humility, we have not done one stitch more than it was our duty to do. God made man in the first place simply that he might be God’s bond-servant. Man’s sin has simply consisted in his refusal to be God’s bond-servant. His restoration can only be then, a restoration to the position of a bondservant. Man has not done anything especially meritorious when he has consented to take that position, for he was created and redeemed for that very thing.
This then, is the Way of the Cross…
It is the way that God’s lowly Bond-servant first trod for us, and should not we, the bond-servants of that Bond-servant, tread it still? Does it seem hard and forbidding, this way down? Be assured, it is the only way up! It was the way by which the Lord Jesus reached the Throne, and it is the way by which we will too.
Those who tread this path are radiant happy souls, overflowing with the life of their Lord. They have found “he that humbleth himself shall be exalted “ to be true for them as for their Lord. Where before humility was an unwelcome intruder to be put up with only on occasions, she has now become the spouse of their souls, to whom they have wedded themselves for ever. If darkness and unrest enter their souls it is only because somewhere at some point they have been unwilling to walk with her in the paths of meekness and brokenness. But she is ever ready to welcome them back into her company, as they seek her face in repentance.
That brings us to the all-important matter of repentance.
We shall not enter into more abundant life merely by resolving that we shall be humbler in the future. There are attitudes and actions which have already taken place and are still being persisted in; (if only by our unwillingness to repent and apologize for them) these must first be repented of.
The Lord Jesus did not take upon Himself the form of a bond-servant only to give us an example, but that He might die for these very sins upon the cross, and open a fountain into His precious Blood where they can all be washed away. But that Blood cannot be applied to the sins of our proud hearts until we have been broken in repentance… This will mean allowing the light of God to shine through every part of our hearts and into every one of our relationships.
It will mean not only asking Him to forgive us, but asking others also for their forgiveness.
And that will be humbling indeed.