Without intending it as such, I will give at least one answer on Saturday night.
I will spend Saturday Night at our annual Confirmation Retreat. In my time at Aldersgate, I’ve confirmed somewhere between 210-350 students. On Saturday Night I will attempt to summarize all the stories and lessons they’ve learned this year, and my summation will take the exact same shape it did for Jesus when he took off his outer robe, put on a servant’s apron and illustrated, hands-on exactly what it’s all meant for his disciples.
By washing their feet.
The foot washing in John 13, I’ll tell the confirmands, is an illustration of who Jesus is (the God who strips off his glory and puts on our likeness), it’s a summary statement of what it means to follow Jesus (serving others) and it’s a live-art embodiment of the Christ hymn in Philippians 2:
Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
That’s what it all comes down to for Jesus. Serving. Humbling ourselves. Getting our hands dirty for the sake of another.
For someone like Joel Osteen, with his Prosperity Gospel (which is closer in logic to the original Gospel, i.e. Caesar’s Gospel) you are blessed with a (material, it’s always material) blessing as a sign of God’s favor upon you.
For someone like Jesus whose life betrayed a logic altogether at odds with Joel O, you’re blessed (JC makes no mention of material) only to be a blessing to others.
Just like Abraham.
JO vs JC.
Without saying as much, that’s the choice I’ll lay down for the confirmation students. The choice that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
And depending on whose eyes through which you look upon the world, you’re forced to make one of two conclusions:
1. If the sign of God’s favor and love is material blessing, then the poor and forsaken in our world are actively receiving something like the opposite of God’s favor and love.
2. If God blesses us to be a blessing, then we are the means by which the poor and forsaken actively receive God’s favor and love.
For JO, God’s blessing takes the form a parking spot, providentially open and free just for you- yes, that’s actually an example in his book.
For JC, God’s blessing takes the form of you taking on the sort of life where Christ will never one day have to ask you: ‘When I was hungry and/or thirsty, where the hell were you?’ And yes, that’s literally an example in JC’s book.
So, despite appearances to the contrary, it comes down to much more than me picking on Joel O.
There’s far too much at stake for simple mockery. There’s Amos-like righteous anger behind my sarcastic ridicule.
Indeed that’s exactly why, as some have asked/pointed out, I can have such scorn for someone and still be consistent with ‘Christian love.’
There’s too much at stake. Both in the world in which we live and in the Gospel which JC gave to us.
Because JO would have us believe that if we believe, God will give to us people/services to wash our feet.
Which is backassward from how JC summarizes his entire message and ministry.
For but another of putting this, click here to see a video I’ll show the confirmation students right before I read John 13 and then get down on my creaky knees and bend over with aching back and wash their icky, stinky feet to better immunize them against all but JC’s Gospel.