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  • Writer's pictureKent Chevalier

The Power of Redefinition

With every fantasy football season, I have to name my new team. I usually try to come up with a name that has a deeper or double meaning. For instance, to honor my big brother the season after he died from Covid, I named my team “Lil’ Box Truck” because he had named his team “Big Box Truck” a decade earlier in the league because of an inside joke. Another year I named my team “Enter the Dragon” based on my favorite Bruce Lee movie. Another season I named my team “Sodapopinski” based on my favorite character to fight in the Nintendo game, Mike Tyson’s Punchout.

This year I have named my fantasy team “Pride.”

I have always loved lions! Their strength and power. The sound of their roar. Their size and speed. How they work together as a team to hunt and protect their own. How their presence alone scatters their enemies and wannabe predators. Yes, I’m that guy who cannot look away from a National Geographic video of a lion chasing down its prey and then eating its victory dinner with a blood-stained face. There’s something so powerful about lions!

Did you know that a group of lions is called a pride? Hence my fantasy football team name. My hope is that my drafted players will work together to bring my team out on top to the point of eating my victory dinner at the end of this season. So, I created a black and gold logo with a lion’s head in the background and the word “pride” in the foreground, and when I submitted my team name and logo to the league, the text thread blew up with comments about gay pride and GIFs of rainbows.

This is the power of redefinition.

If you do a Google search of the word “pride,” the first things to pop up are articles about the LGBTQ+ community. This word is now associated with a powerful movement. This word is linked with the image of a rainbow. This word now defines a certain lifestyle.

This is not an article about gay pride. This is an article about words and definitions.

Words are powerful. Definitions are crucial. Images that are connected to those words and definitions have the ability to shape and define a culture’s lifestyle.

Jesus knew this.

Christianity’s Image

When people hear the word “Christianity” in today’s culture, there is a gamut of words, definitions, and images that come to mind. Ranging from very positive to extremely problematic. All the way from holy to horrific. This is why it’s so important to examine the words and lifestyle of Jesus alone who is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. That’s the purpose of my writing this False Jesus series. To always point us back to Jesus’ words about himself and his expectations for his followers.

Recorded in John 13, Jesus spoke very specific words of what he expected to define his disciples. He even gave them (and us) a living image (an example from his own life) that he hoped would burn into their hearts to solidify the Christian lifestyle.

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….

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “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. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” - John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35

This is the image that Jesus wanted to be seared into his disciple’s minds.

The Son of God, the most powerful person in the room, humbled himself to wash his disciple’s feet. At that moment, Jesus gave us a profound picture of what he hoped would define the movement that is now called Christianity. The washing of feet, which was the nasty job of the lowest person of their culture’s totem pole, a servant. Jesus willingly took the lowest place to serve.

Jesus gave us a living illustration of servanthood motivated by love.

So, let me ask you this…Is this the image that comes to mind when you hear the word “Christian” in today’s culture? A servant? My guess is a confident no.

The Image of Servanthood Re-Defined by Jesus

The term “servant” has a very negative connotation in our culture. And rightly so. Images of slaves being abused by their masters come to mind. This word conjurs up a horrible American history of 400 years of the grossest violence against those who were treated as less than human. So, when Jesus instructs his followers to be servants, we have a hard time comprehending what he meant by this word. We have a visceral reaction to that word.

When Jesus even said of himself (recorded in Matthew 20:28) that he came to be a servant, not to be served, what did he mean?

I believe the Apostle Paul captures it perfectly.

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, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Here you have Jesus described as the anointed Son of God, the Savior of the world, taking the form of a servant. Jesus chose to leave the richness of heaven to embrace the poverty of earth by becoming human and to serve humans. He willingly laid down his rights (and later his life) as the Son of God to serve both God and others.

This is servanthood, defined and modeled by Jesus Christ. My question is…are we seeing this in today’s Christianity?

I have been a part of an organization, known as Lionshare, since 2003. (See, I told you I liked lions 😉). Lionshare’s aim is to co-mission with Jesus in fulfilling His Great Commission by igniting and equipping disciple makers within the Church and throughout the vocations where Christians work. Our pride believes that discipleship works best through relationships using tools that reference God’s character, ways and mission. One of those tools is Dave Buehring’s book, A Discipleship Journey.

God has used this book to rearrange my life in how I follow Jesus. Next to the Bible, this book has been the most influential book I’ve ever read because it always points me to Jesus and practically helps me to follow His ways.

In his eye-opening chapter, A Call to Discipleship, Dave Buehring defines servanthood. He writes, “A servant relinquishes their rights so they may better serve God and others. The heart of a servant desires to be available to God for His purposes, which include serving others. A servant’s attitude is one of open and upward palms, willing to allow the Lord to take from them as well as to give to them.”

He then goes on to list what servants of God willingly surrender in their lives like Jesus did. To be honest, I got mad the first few times I read this list. I have a love/hate relationship with this servanthood list that is compiled from the pages of the Bible. This list makes me say, “Yeah, but…” or “What about…” because I’m used to having certain rights as an American citizen.

In a culture that is so quick to point out our inalianeable rights, Dave Buehring points to a higher authority that Christians have surrendered to in their lives. When we choose to follow Jesus, we surrender ourselves to His ways and calling on our lives.

Servants surrender their rights to...
- their family
- marriage
- singleness when they marry
- their friends
- their freedom
- their finances and possessions
- popularity and reputation
- their time
- food, shelter, sleep, and comfort
- their position, rank, or place of importance
- their nationality or denomination
- their gifts and ministry
- their opinions and the right to be right
- their future

I will admit that this is a hard list to absorb, especially as a Christian who lives in America. But we have to work hard to remove the lens in which we see our rights. As Christians, who submit ourselves to a higher authority than the rights and laws of our country, we must be willing to relinquish these rights with open palms to make ourselves available to serve God and others. This is what Jesus did. He willingly laid down all of his rights to serve because He was motivated by love.

When a Christian walks in humility and obedience to God’s ways, they reflect Jesus more accurately. Jesus didn’t do things for the applause of people. He served out of a position of God’s approval of Him. We should follow his lead. Jesus didn’t do things to be noticed, but he served mostly behind the scenes, and when he did get noticed, he always pointed back to God. Jesus showed us that we need to serve no matter how nasty the job, like washing dirt, dust, and animal poop off his disciples’ feet.

What I love about Jesus’ model for servanthood was his willingness to serve anybody and everybody. Whoever God told him to serve, he served. Jesus broke all cultural barriers and rules to serve people of all backgrounds and nationalities. He continued to serve the very people who mistreated him and even those who eventually killed him. This is the Christian’s model.

Jesus showed us how to serve, even in his death. And that is the call of every Christian. We are to die to ourselves. Motivated by our love for God and others, we are to pick up our cross daily and follow his example (Matthew 16:24-25). Servants of God die to self and live for God and others.

Servanthood: Dying to Self

The problem is that we live in a world where self is king. We even take pictures of ourselves and post them on social media, and these pictures are called Selfies. We are taught from the beginning to seek what is best for “me” and “mine.” Chase your dream. Work hard to get yours. Our lives revolve around self.

This is nothing new. This is natural. We are born to prefer ourselves.

Jesus taught a different way.

Jesus taught that we need to die to self. And what I love about Jesus is that He didn’t just teach it, he lived it. Jesus taught that servants die to self-will to do God’s will, and he did that by going to the cross. Jesus modeled for his followers that it is better to die to pleasing yourself in order to please God. Jesus showed us that servants die to relying on themselves to put their full trust in God. Jesus taught that God’s ways are always more important to a Christian than their own opinions.

Jesus didn’t just teach these things. He practiced what he preached. Jesus went all in on servanthood. That’s why he can expect it of his followers.

The challenge to all Christians is to follow Jesus’ lead. According to Jesus, dying to self is not an option. Servanthood, motivated by love, is what Jesus expects. Remember, Jesus commanded it. Jesus said to his disciples (recorded in John 13:34-35), “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This command to love comes right on the heels of Jesus washing his disciples feet. Therefore, you and I cannot separate love from serving God and others. This is how Jesus redefined servanthood.

Jesus, who by the way is also referred to as the Lion of Judah in Revelation 5:5, the Overcomer, the victorious Lion King, willingly chose to lay down his crown. Motivated by love, He laid down his rights all the way to the point of laying down his life for you and me.

Servanthood, motivated by love. A powerful redefinition. That is what Jesus’ pride should be known for.

And now you know the deeper meaning of my fantasy football team name this season.

Before you go…

Let’s be really honest with each other. No person is going to get this right 100% of the time. God knows I don’t, and you can also ask my wife and daughters.

Our natural response is to think about ourselves and do what’s best for ourselves. And my guess is that if you have a beef with Jesus or Christianity, it’s likely because you’ve been around a Christian or stumbled upon one on social media who didn’t follow Jesus’ example. And I totally understand that.

This is why I have a core conviction in writing these newsletters of False Jesus. We need to carefully examine the life and teachings of Jesus himself before we throw out all of Christianity based on the behavior of his followers who are incapable of getting this right 100% of the time. Don’t take their word for it. Don’t take my word for it. Take Jesus’ word for it. Look at his life and then make your decision.

Dying to Self

by Bill Britton

When you are forgotten, neglected, or purposely set aside, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but you keep your heart right before God, glad to be counted as worthy to suffer for Jesus — that is dying to self.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself – that is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, irregularity, unpunctuality, or any annoyance, and when you stand face-to-face with waste, foolishness, extravagance, and spiritual insensitivity, and endure it as Jesus did — that is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, clothing, climate, culture – and any interruption by the will of God — that is dying to self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record your own good works or itch after commendations; when you truly love to be unknown — that is dying to self.

When you can see someone else prosper and have their needs met and can honestly rejoice with them from your heart, and feel no envy, nor question God while your own needs are far greater — that is dying to self.

When you can receive rebuke and correction from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no places of rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart — that is dying to self. 


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