At Work

How Christ Exemplified Humble Leadership on Maundy Thursday

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While my husband and I were dating we attended a small Methodist church situated right on the edge of town, pastored by the minister who would one day officiate our wedding.

While I had always loved celebrating the jubilant entrance of Jesus on Palm Sunday and the quiet, solemn, candlelit mourning period of Good Friday, I had never before given much thought to the observation of Maundy Thursday until we walked into the sanctuary to find a pitcher and bowl placed near the altar.

That night, as churches of many denominations do on Maundy Thursday, we sought to follow the leadership of Christ presented in John 13:6-17, when, at the conclusion of the Passover feast, Jesus washed the feet of Simon Peter. My now-husband and I washed one another’s feet in what would become one of the most powerful moments of our relationship thus far. We would recreate the act again during our wedding a year later.

Have you ever literally washed the feet of another person? In biblical times people often walked the dusty roads of Palestine in sandals, rendering their feet filthy. Meals were taken reclining, so feet would often be easily seen, and even uncomfortably close to the food. This made it important to wash your feet before the meal.

In wealthier households, a servant would wash the feet of the master and his guests, but in the upper room where Jesus and his disciples were gathered there is no servant mentioned, so Christ fills the role of the lowliest servants.

Jesus calls his followers to humble themselves, as he did; to serve one another instead of focusing on who occupies the highest position.

This lesson is applicable to all areas of life, whether we are considering marriage and family life, service in the church, or humble leadership in the workplace.

Can you imagine having your feet washed by your boss? For workplace leaders, have you ever contemplated “washing the feet” of your employees by becoming a humble servant-leader?

Far from the top-down, boss-knows-best approach of the 20th century, many modern offices are beginning to realize that a culture of service and cooperation with one another leads to better outcomes, and that the best leaders are often the most humble.

A servant leader not only earns the respect of those she is leading, but follows the example of Christ as well.

In the workplace this servant leadership might not take the literal form of foot washing. Instead, it might be a project manager listening more intently to the ideas of his team, or an executive giving credit for a success to those who report to her, instead of claiming it for herself.

While we may not literally wash the feet of our coworkers or employees, there are still many ways we can strive for Christ-like leadership in whatever position we find ourselves. This Holy Week, will you join me in searching for more ways to exhibit the humble leadership of Christ in the church, home, and workplace?

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  • Amarah

    What a cool symbolic action Elizabeth Beshears. Thanks for this article!

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