John’s Gospel alone reports the “instructive moment” of the Lord washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). While some emphasize that this passage is all about love (v. 1c), others see the primary point being service (vv. 13-17). There is no tension. The Lord Jesus Christ is here loving by serving … serving by loving … while teaching us to follow His pattern. There are, in the text, not less than three characteristics of this serving love.

First, it is unannounced. It should have a spontaneous quality. It happens because it’s the right thing to do—not in response to premeditating with an objective of being noticed (seeketh not her own). It should be proactive in the extreme.

Second, it is unprejudiced. Judas left this upper room with clean feet. The Lord’s love for Judas was in no way less than His love for “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” In Matthew’s account of the garden arrest (26:50), the tenderness of Christ’s loving heart at a moment which would humanly demands justice, is telling.

And, third, it is unusual. Consider the paradoxical positioning of verses 3 (all authority) and 4 (abject humility)! In fact, this love is so unusual, that the Lord says here in the text that it will be the single distinctive indicating genuine believers’ relationship to Christ (v. 35).

Some current missionary practice would seem to hold that one may justifiably set aside doctrinal teaching or personal holiness in order to love in a unifying way. However, living out the Lord’s love will never require the sacrifice of truth or of holiness.

Written by Steve Anderson, Field Administrator of Baptist World Mission