“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” [Matthew 16:23-25 NIV]
Jesus was supremely kind, generous, helpful, selfless, and self-sacrificing. Part of Christian spirituality is putting into practice what it means to imitate Jesus, following his way of life. This means giving charitably, donating your wealth, and being willing to part with things you don’t need, or even being willing to share things that you do need. Christian living and Christian spirituality is about letting go of the priorities of this world, or sacrifice. We’re not attached to material things, reputation, or status - we simply use what is given to us to do what is right.
This generosity includes giving your financial and personal resources to your church community. It’s a risk and it involves entrusting part of yourself to a flawed and imperfect community that may either do great things or fall short. Christians must be willing to take risks on other people and on their faith community. Sometimes we will have to learn lessons “the hard way” before we see the results of our contributions. This can be painful, but it’s part of following Jesus. He made himself vulnerable to all of us, even though we often abuse his grace.
Following Jesus means humbling yourself and being willing to do tasks and jobs that others might find degrading or humiliating.
For example, shortly before Jesus was arrested and put on trial, he and his disciples had met to celebrate the feast of Passover. While the disciples were bickering, as they often did, about which of them was the “greatest” [Mark 9:30-37; Luke 22:24-30], Jesus decided to demonstrate the true values of his Kingdom. So he - even though he was older than them and positioned as their teacher - bent down to the ground, took on the low position of a household servant, and washed the sand and dirt off their feet, using his own clothing to wipe them clean.
“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17 NIV)
Jesus didn’t only want people to wash each other’s feet. The example of Jesus in this story and in his whole life is selflessly and humbly serving others, even in their most basic or perhaps off-putting needs. Because of his deep love for people, Jesus gave of himself until he died. Being spiritual means being transformed into the kind of person who reflects the character of Jesus - living with open arms, an open heart, and a deep joy in helping others.