Of Flipping Tables and Washing Feet

by Bob Allen:

I need to stay off of social media.

Seriously. In a recent small group zoom meeting, one of my dear friends reminded us that social media can be a great tool for catching up with old friends or connecting with organizations or discovering family events happening in our area, but it also can divide like no other. The instability stoked by the pandemic and amplified by political tension threatens to undo a lot of Christian witness online as our ability to make our voices and opinions heard increasingly polarizes us into a people divided by our voices and opinions. Social media exacerbates the issue because we end up talking over each other, raising objections in an escalating tone emphasizing our “rightness” and other’s “wrongness”.

I think my issues stem from a lack of Christlikeness in myself. Actually, I don’t think it, I know it. I want to be like Jesus walking into the temple and flipping over the tables of the money changers. When I consider what it must have been like to be one of Jesus’s disciples watching him fashion a whip of cords and drive these profiteers out of his Father’s house as we see in John 2:13-17, I can’t help but wonder if I would have cheered him on or averted my eyes in embarrassment for those he was confronting. Or would I have been ashamed because I, too, had been party to a money-changing or sacrifice selling of sorts?

I’d like to think my allegiance to Christ would have me some jumbled discombobulated mess, carrying all three emotional states. More likely, however, I’d want to be the first, would end up the second with little to no thought of the third. But one thing never escapes my eye as I read this account.

Never once in these showdowns between Jesus and “religious” people does Jesus turn to his disciples and say, “Watch this and then duplicate it when you face opposition.” Admittedly, there are probably some tables that need to be zealously flipped, but more often than not, as I consider my context and station, I find it is not my job to do so. Neither is it yours.

Think it through for a moment.

Who had the authority in the situation? Who could honestly drive these people out? Who could cast the first stone so to speak?

Nobody but Jesus.

This fact drives me to explore how Jesus approached teaching his disciples about why he came and how they are to act on his behalf. These passages break my heart because I know my tendency is to be the Jesus who flips over tables and that seems the default posture for a lot of Christians, particularly those who feel the burden to contend for the faith.

Look at how Jesus sent the twelve “as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” (Mt. 10:16) There is a different mentality, a weakness which is to be exemplified. Understand, Jesus doesn’t want us to be pushovers, but rather to rely not on our strength. He says as much in the very next verse as both a warning and and encouragement:

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Mt. 10:17-20)

He says it’s less about flipping tables on the offensive and more relying on God’s strength in the moment of testing because speaking the truth about the gospel will set you at odds with men.

So, rather than weaponizing truth, Jesus calls us to serve people with it, to bear witness to it, relying on God to provide courage to still our knee-knocking and words to explain his grace. I don’t know about you, but I find myself challenged to surrender my both fight and flight instincts in order to do what God wants me to do—serve his kingdom by serving people.

The zeal we carry for God’s word must be converted from indignation to invitation. When Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, he explains that service is not only the highest act of love, it is the way forward for his disciples, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (Jn. 13:15-16) Christians are not greater than their Master. In his own words, he came not to be served but to serve (Mt. 20:28) and as such, his people must be a people of service.

We must allow ourselves to be humbled so that the grace and power of God can work through us. Brothers and sisters, let us approach our interactions with others, especially on social media, looking to serve people rather than confront them. Let us point them to Jesus through loving conversations anchored in gospel-centered truths. Let us be a people not seeking to win arguments but to speak truth gracefully, allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work in convicting hearts and drawing people to God.

Let’s flip fewer tables and wash more feet.

~Soli Deo Gloria~

Photo by christian buehner on Unsplash

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