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with Steve Demme

the best servant wins

ohn 15:9 changed my trajectory. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” That one verse was instrumental in making me know that I was loved, and liked, by God. I had spent decades trying to somehow earn His divine affection by doing stuff for God. I saw in a new way, that because of what Jesus had done for me—taking my sin upon Himself, clothing me in His righteousness, and adopting me as His child—that Jesus loves me just as the Father loved Jesus.

The end of this verse says to abide, or remain, in His love. My heart responded, “Yes!” But I wondered how to do it. Jesus goes on to say, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

In my mind, I wondered which commandments I should obey, but as I came to verse 12 I knew, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Boom! The new commandment! I was all in. I began to search the Scriptures and make lists of how Jesus had loved me. One of the first passages that came to my mind was of Jesus; He came not to be served, but to serve.

This verse follows a debate among His disciples about which of them was the best. I can totally relate to this. This is what men do, we compete. This desire to be the best is from our testosterone. I love the response of Jesus, the Creator, who knows our DNA. He basically said, “I know you have this need to be the best; I made you in my image and put the testosterone in you. However in my kingdom, we have new rules. The best servant wins!”

“But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’”

— Matthew 20:25-28
Paul reinforces this concept by encouraging the church to adopt this servant mentality:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…”

— Philippians 2:5-7
In my mind, I wondered which commandments I should obey, but as I came to verse 12 I knew, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
One day I came home after I had been pondering how to serve my wife. I walked from the garage into the kitchen and discovered it needed some attention. I emptied the dishwasher, washed the dishes in the sink, emptied the trash, and wiped off the countertops. I then went about my business.

Later Sandi came home, walked through the kitchen, and didn’t say anything. I was expecting a big hug, a loud gasp of appreciation, or a small parade. Nothing. Instead of bringing my accomplishment to her attention, which I wanted to do, God helped me to adopt a different response. I thought about Jesus. I looked up and wondered how many things He had done for me, how many instances that He had served me, and I had not thanked or acknowledged Him. He did not throw a pity party or remind me of what he had done, He quietly and faithfully continued to minister to me in ways I could not fathom.

I let it go. I did not bring my kitchen cleaning up. I kept my focus on Jesus and looked for ways to serve. I still clean the kitchen. I make breakfast. I take out the trash, all with little or no fanfare. For I am not serving to be thanked; I am serving to be like my master. I am accepting His mantle of being a servant and loving my wife as Jesus has loved and served me.

The night before He was crucified, Jesus lived out these words. He had taught His followers about being a servant, now He illustrated it:

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

— John 13:3-5
unwashed dishes on sink
Then He sat down and explained what He had done. This is what homeschoolers call a teachable moment:
“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

— John 13:12-15
Once we have adopted a servant mentality and set ourselves to love others as Jesus has loved us, then we find many ways to love well. I have heard 1 Corinthians 13 many times, from Sunday School to Vacation Bible School to weddings. The words are almost too familiar. Yet they are powerful, inspired by the Spirit, and provide practical applications of the new commandment. Consider these seven descriptions and applications of love. Remember that Jesus is love, in the flesh. He is the embodiment and incarnation of love. “God is love.” (1 John 4:8,16) You can substitute the name Jesus in place of the word love with great benefit.

  • Love (Jesus) is patient and kind.
  • Love (Jesus) is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
  • Love (Jesus) does not demand its (His) own way.
  • Love (Jesus) is not irritable.
  • Love (Jesus) keeps no record of being wronged.
  • Love (Jesus) never gives up, never loses faith.
  • Love (Jesus) is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

We know that Peter was loved well. He knew the love of His Savior like few others. He was forgiven much and as a result, he loved much. He writes:

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

— 1 Peter 4:8
When I read this verse I think of Jesus covering our sins on the cross. I also know that when I love well, I can overlook a bunch of things that would normally aggravate me. I remind myself that love covers a multitude of sins, and love keeps no record of being wronged. We each have many opportunities to love and serve one another. May God help us to love and serve as Jesus has loved and served us.
Looking to Jesus,
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teve Demme and his wife Sandra have been married since 1979. They have been blessed with four sons, three lovely daughters-in-law, and six special grandchildren. Their fourth son has Down syndrome and lives with them in Lititz, PA. Steve has served in full or part-time pastoral ministry for many years after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the creator of Math-U-See and the founder of Building Faith Families.