Teresa of Avila: The Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Chapter Three
What surprises me most of all now is that they have just as great a desire to serve him and that through them he be praised and that they may benefit some soul if they can. (Teresa of Avila)
We can compare the Western mind with an oak tree that stands firm and rigid against the strong wind. When the wind becomes stronger, the oak tree cracks. The Chinese mind, on the other hand, is like the bamboo that bends with the strong wind. When the wind ceases (that is, when it goes to the extreme and changes), the bamboo springs back stronger than before. (Bruce Lee – Artist of Life)
As a Christian, we center ourselves in love, humility, and ordinary life. We actualize these principles through service. We serve God and our primary way of serving God is serving others. In our service, the Holy Spirit brings grace, mercy, and empowerment to others.
In John 13, Jesus teaches us several things about service. In this passage he washes the feet of the disciples. In his time and culture, washing the feet of another person was considered humiliating. Jesus took on this “humiliation” to foreshadow the cross (the humiliation of a criminal’s death). After completing the foot-washing, Jesus encouraged his disciples to also serve and love others in humility.
The Core Principles of Service
- Service Should Flow From Love: John explains Jesus’ motive behind the foot-washing and the cross: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jesus then instructed his disciples to love: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus first washed the feet his closest companions. Service always begins at “home”. Doing great acts of charity in the world (or church), but using “power” or “force” with your family, friends, and co-workers is not the Jesus way.
- Service Centers Itself in Self-awareness and Strength: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God”. We can also serve in strength and self-awareness knowing all things are in his hands and the indwelling Trinity will guide us.
- Service Follows the Example of Jesus and Serves Others: “‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord— and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.”
- Service Results in Blessing: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
- Service Requires Risk: After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ But, Jesus’ ultimate answer to the possibility of betrayal is to love anyway. Those who try to exploit us should not drive us to a risk-averse life, a shrinking life, or diminish our ability to be in relationship with others.
The “Power” of Humility and Service
We live in a world of “powers”. There is, of course, spiritual forces not always seen. These powers control and manipulate human powers. Then, there are “neutral” powers like governments, businesses, media, schools, and even churches. They also use or try to use force. And when we respond with power or force (even seemingly innocent behaviors like defensiveness), the “powers” become competitive. They need to win and we will likely lose.
So what do we do? The answer is the cross (humility, service, suffering, and joy). Paul writes, that through the cross Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.” The powers were/are defeated through the cross. When we use power or force, we incite the competitive nature of the powers and their desire to win. When choose love, service, humility, and non-violence, we ultimately disarm these powers because Jesus has previously brought them in subjection. This is why the non-violence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King ultimately brought empires to their feet. The “powers” of this world have no answer to the Jesus Way.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
“For he (Jesus) was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
I encourage you to choose the way of the cross. And then you will conquer the world.
For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C. Kindle Edition.
All scripture references: Harper Bibles (2011-11-22). NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha. Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Bruce Lee: Artist of Life (Bruce Lee Library). Tuttle Publishing. Kindle Edition.
This is one finely weaved argument. Starting with Teresa’s cumbersomely worded service to other souls statement (she uses the words “that they” alot; sorry Teresa), to 5 service principles backed by Gospel text, to your power views related to the Cross and if this was not enough to close the argument, you bring in St. Paul sayings to “conquer the world!” I marvel at this inspired writing.
One takeaway will resonate long after leaving this blog: by our service the Holy Spirit brings “grace, mercy, empowerment” to others.
Hi Brian — As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read. Thanks for your kind and generous words. I hope all is well with you!
By giving, we help others, increase our self-fulfillment, and serve God so well. Inspiring post, Dave!
Thank you Dave. I loved the core principles of service.
Thanks Tim. I wrote about them. But you live them!
The Core Principles of Service is a fabulous list. If we take all the explanation words away, there yet, remains a lot to think about, and do about.
Thanks Resa — It’s always nice to hear from you. Thanks for reading!