Recently, I was walking into a building while talking with a woman whom I know. Instinctively as I approached the door, I moved ahead, opened the door, and held it - allowing my friend to enter first. Her response was, "I forgot that you are from the South."
Statements like that always get under my skin a little bit. Not in a way that gets me fired up, but they remind me of why I act in this manner in the first place. Yes, I grew up in the South. Yes, it is fairly common practice (although less and less these days) for boys to open doors for girls and allow them to enter first. This is often referred to as an aspect of chivalry. Chivalry, while having found its roots in the code of proper behavior for an English knight, is a code of respect and honor for a gentleman, especially in their interaction with a lady. It is good, respectful, and sacrificial behavior.
Chivalry has come under fire in our culture today.
Of late, this type of behavior has come under fire as being demeaning toward women, as if they can't open doors, carry heavy objects, and do other such things on their own. Some believe that this behavior views women as being lesser rather than equals. I couldn't disagree more with this viewpoint and consider it a skewed view of the purpose behind such actions. Chivalry was rooted in respect; I believe that is how it should be viewed today.
Our actions ought to be rooted in the gospel.
When I treat women with respect, does it come from a root of chivalry and the expected behavior of a gentleman? Do I behave that way simply because it's how I was raised or because I grew up in the South? Not at all. That is why statements like those offered by my friend often get under my skin. It isn't because I feel it is disrespectful or pushes back against my actions. It is because I know that the reason for my actions has been missed.
Why do I carry heavy objects, give up my seat, or open a door for a woman? Because I believe it is a picture of the gospel. I believe the Bible calls me to act in such a manner.
The Bible teaches how we should treat one another.
Ephesians 5:25 says, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." This comes from a passage of Scripture where Paul is teaching how we should treat one another as fellow Christians. It exemplifies how Christ has loved the Church. In a marital relationship, husbands ought to sacrificially love their wives just as Christ gave himself for us. We see specifically the call for men to treat women with ultimate love and dignity, by sacrificially serving them, just as Christ has done. This passage also speaks to the value of all people. Everyone should seek to live a life that humbly sacrifices for others.
Jesus is our perfect example of humble, sacrificial living.
In John 13, we see the encounter between Jesus and his disciples when he humbles himself and washes their feet prior to the Last Supper. What an incredible display of both servanthood and humility! This was a demeaning act. It was not something that someone with any kind of status would do for other people.
But what did Jesus do? He lowered himself to that of a servant. He sacrificed his 'status,' and he humbly served those around him.
Jesus then taught his disciples saying, "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 13:14-15).
What can we learn from Jesus' example?
Consider these three truths that we can learn from Jesus' interaction with his disciples.
1. Jesus calls us to serve others.
Jesus not only taught us about sacrificial living, but he lived a life that exemplified humble servanthood. His whole life was for the purpose of serving us and sacrificing for us. He didn't come for fame or position, but to bring salvation to those who could not accomplish this on their own. This is how we know what love is! This is also part of how we know our value and what gives us our identity. Who are we? All of us are God's creation that he loves so much he was willing to lower himself to the point of death so that we could be reconciled back to him. He calls us to also view each other this way, which leads us to humbly serve one another.
2. Serving others expresses the gospel to others.
When we serve other people, whether it be in big or small ways, we are expressing the gospel to them. We are showing them a love that is not based on what they have done for us or what we can get from them. We are showing them the unconditional love that we have learned from Jesus. We are essentially showing them how Jesus loves them through our own actions. This is counter-cultural. You cannot live your life treating people this way and have it go unnoticed. It is not the norm in today's society. When we hold a door, provide a meal, or allow someone to go ahead of us, we are showing an expression of the gospel.
3. Serving others reminds us of the gospel.
When we serve other people, it humbles us. We have to sacrifice our own desires, our own position, and our own glory for the sake of someone else. We don't do these things by accident. They take intentionality. When we do them, it serves as a reminder of who Jesus is and what he did for us. We do these things because he has called us to them and he has shown us how. So, when I hold the door for someone, I am not just kindly keeping them from having to pull the door and letting them go first. I am putting someone ahead of myself. I am valuing someone else's life above my own, and it reminds me of how I have been served by Jesus. It is a necessary reminder of the gospel!
Let's take Jesus' example and model it for the next generation!
If we have been called to serve others in this manner, should we not also be intentionally and directly teaching our kids to do the same? We can teach our kids to be respectful to others. We can teach our boys how to respect and serve women. But we need to make sure that we teach them why this is important. We want to disciple them toward a life that acts out, exemplifies, and proclaims the gospel in all things they do. We don't want to just grow children who are simply respectful and well-mannered, but we must raise kids who are true agents of the gospel!