I’ll never forget once being introduced at a speaking engagement as a “godly” person. I first looked down somewhat embarrassed and then gradually looked around to see if there was anyone in the audience I might know. Naturally, I was thinking to myself, most people don’t have a clue as to what goes on inside me. Then, I naturally started beating up on myself.
By the time I stood up to speak, I was about to crack a joke about the introductory remarks, but instead I’ll never forget saying, “thank you for that kind introduction.” Then I proceeded to go off-script for a few minutes and say how interesting it is to be considered “godly.” And, I discussed the duplicity of looking godly outside but being ungodly within.
Look again at the icon. It was Peter who objected and said to Jesus “you will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered Peter by saying, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” The point is, Jesus is not being polite. The foot washing is not about good manners or personal hygiene. It is about service and the true character of godliness found in Christ.
Godliness is far removed from ungodliness or self-righteousness. An act of self-righteousness is looking for the applause. Also, the self-righteous act is obviously pointed to the self. Rather than write on and on about ungodliness or self-righteousness reflect with me on the relationship between service and godliness.
Service and godliness have to do with giving of yourself. It is a form of sacrificial agape love. Such sacrifice is not earned; it is sacred. Sacred as in sacramental, as in breaking bread, or in washing another’s feet. Service and godliness not only work together but they tap into love and it is a character trait, a gift, or a lifestyle.
One more thought about godliness and service walking hand-in-hand. Watch how they are joined by humility. A humble person is not a doormat. Rather a humble person is able to love. Put it this way, have you ever known an arrogant person capable of love or from your experience, does someone who is filled with pride have much chance with love?
Humility is a form of self denial. Peter found this out the hard way. After Jesus told Peter they will have little in common unless he is permitted to wash his feet, Peter cries out: “Lord, [wash] not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
Interconnecting godliness to humility, and service to love is not original. These words, virtues, traits, and spiritual components line-up with one other and wash over us—like water—so that our body, our heart, soul and mind, our entire life in Christ will be a walking example of godly living.
Like Peter, our knee-jerk reaction is to reject the idea of godly living and reserve godliness for Jesus only. But think about it. No one really wants to live an ungodly life. In Christ, godliness is held out to all. Jesus kneels before us with towel in hand. Go ahead. Slip off your sandals.
Image credit: Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet. Ethiopian icon. Picture taken by John Kohan. Permission granted.