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WASHING SOCKS
by Philip Owen

          What kind of a child of God are you? Are you the kind of child who must be beaten over the head and cudgeled, so to speak, into obedience? Do you require exhortation upon exhortation to be persuaded to obey some command or plea after plea to coax you to perform some service for the Lord? Do you approach Christian service reluctantly as unpleasant duties or happily as privileged opportunities? Consider the example Scripture provides in the Apostle John.

            Hanging on the cross with death swiftly approaching, “Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, . . . [and] said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple [i.e., John] ‘Behold, your mother!’ From that hour the disciple took her into his own household” (John 19:26, 27).

            Note the confidence the Lord had in John. The Lord knew that He could entrust John with the responsibility of looking after His mother, Mary, after His death and return to heaven. There was no explicit command, no cajoling, no promise that He would make it worth John’s while to care for Mary. He knew John’s character; He knew his heart; He knew His love for the Lord and his willingness to serve in any capacity. He knew that John wouldn’t say, “I’m an apostle; I’ve got bigger fish to fry and far more important things to do than to spend time and money taking care of a widow.” Are you reliable? Trustworthy? Faithful? When the Lord looks over the battlements of heaven for someone to perform a menial task, can He entrust that task to you?

            Note the simplicity of the Lord’s statement. “Behold, your mother.” Have you noticed how little you must say to children when you mention something they want? “Kids, let’s go get an ice cream cone.” And before the words have died on your lips, car doors are slamming. But just ask them to tidy their room. You may have to repeat the command, explain that the toys must be put away, and, oh, yes, the books, too. And don’t forget to make the bed and put your dirty clothes in the laundry. And in all likelihood, more words follow. But John loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him in whatever way the Lord chose. His will was so conformed to the Lord’s will that few words needed to be exchanged.

            Note the alacrity of John’s response. “From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” Not a moment’s hesitation. Not a minute of reflection. No measuring the cost. From that hour, John took Mary in as if she were his own mother. This was no trifle that the Lord asked of him. It was a potentially expensive, burdensome, and time-consuming responsibility that John undertook. It might stretch every resource he had, but what was that in service to His Lord? Mary would live as an honored guest, and John would gladly provide for her in her old age. It would not win him trophies in the world, boost his profile, nor increase his stature with the movers and shakers. It would not make his primary duties as an apostle easier. Never mind. He embraced the responsibilities with all their costs.

            “Serve the Lord with gladness,” the psalmist tells us (100:2a). John not only knew that psalm, he also lived it, following in the footsteps of His God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who was “anointed . . . with the oil of joy above . . . [His] fellows” (Psa. 45:7b), even when obedience to the Father took Him to the cross. The Lord does not want reluctant obedience. He wants those who delight to serve Him, who find their greatest joy in doing His will. I remember the account of one prominent Christian minister when asked about the character of another nationally well-known minister. “I don’t know what others say about him,” he responded. “All I know is that we shared a room at a conference we both attended, and when I got up in the morning, he had washed my socks.”

            So what kind of Christian are you? Are you too busy or too important to wash socks? Or when a volunteer is needed, do you jump to it “from that hour,” rejoicing to serve the Lord?

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