Journey with Me: Choose the Towel or the Robe

Heimagere’s Part Two to my Lebanon trip series!

As part of my trip preparation, I have been asked to read a book called “Cross-Cultural Servanthood” by Duane Elmer. The main idea of the book is to help us understand how to serve the World through understanding and receiving their unique cultures with sensitivity and complete Christ-like humility. It’s an amazing read and I would recommend it to any of you wanting to go into missions!

It’s definitely been one of the most convicting books I’ve read on the topic of missions. It shows how complicated missions can be when we unconsciously offend people in our host cultures. Sometimes, without even meaning to, our acts of service can be communicated to them as arrogance, superiority and imperialism.

What Will You Choose?

My favorite part of this book is when Elmer talks about Jesus emulating humility and how we must follow Him as a servant. Elmer points out how the disciples and Jesus seemed to choose two completely different roles: the Robe and the Towel. The disciples thought that they deserved the “robe” of power, position and wealth, because after all, they were followers of the Messiah, right?

Too often, I can relate to putting on the Robe and being much like the disciples. Instead of giving up my life, I surrender things to Jesus that I am most comfortable with. But the things that I hold onto like a vice grip are things like my Robe of position and superiority.

God doesn’t call us to give up the things that we are comfortable with giving up, but rather the things that we find too uncomfortable to surrender.

He calls us to be like Jesus. Jesus chose the Towel. Think about it for a moment. Jesus’ life as a human began in a lowly stable smelling of livestock and dirty hay. It ended as He hung; His bloody, torn body nailed to a cross and His head bowed in submission to the Father’s will.

As Elmer puts it:

“Neither the opening nor the closing scenes of Jesus’ life suggest anything but a life of humble service-the life of the towel. In between these two scenes are hundreds of others that suggest a kind of towel mission: seeking the lost, preforming miracles, touching the poor and marginalized , casting out demons, doing good, teaching kingdom values, nurturing people, praying, fasting and other activities showing His service to mankind. His life was given to carrying the towel , the symbol of humanity, obedient and, ultimately suffering service.”

So, which do you want? We have a choice: the Robe or the Towel. “Both are found in Scripture, but only one is appropriate for Jesus’ followers,” says Elmer.

The Towel is less “spectacular.” It’s not adorned with power, recognition, wealth or even comfortable living. It’s a quiet symbol. A symbol of humility that Christ lived perfectly, and we are called to emulate.

Changing the “World-Changer” Mentality

Too many times mission trips can make us feel like superhumans with fluttering red capes and a triumphant “S” plastered on our shirts.

We feel as if it is our need to save people because we are higher and more privileged than they are. Instead of serving people with grace, we label ourselves with “world-changer” as if the world needs our heroism.

My friends, the mission field is not a place to flaunt our ability to change people. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just sit, shut up and listen to their stories. Why can’t we just cry with them, hold their hand and for once, just immerse ourselves and fall in love with their culture? How about we stop treating people like evangelism projects and start loving them as people that God has breathed life into?

We are not called to change the world, that’s God’s department 🙂 We are demanded to serve others. To bend down and wash their feet in humility and love. Serving others means getting dirt under your fingernails. Serving others can mean exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Sometimes, serving others means extreme persecution and death. But wherever we are, I believe that Christ will fill us with exuberant faith and overflowing joy that no other hardship can even compare.

The beauty of the mission field doesn’t lie in our abilities and successes or the people that we were able to change. The beauty lies in an amazing God that can use a broken person with so many weaknesses and shortcomings to serve Him and the people that He has created in complete obedience and Christ-like humility.

I can only leave you with a verse that has defined, and will continue to define the way I will serve others…

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.”

~John 13:12-17

Thanks for reading:)






2 thoughts on “Journey with Me: Choose the Towel or the Robe

  1. Yunfei says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

    It feels so entrenched in us to live desiring the robe, but I’m beginning to discover the peace that comes from the towel.

    Liked by 1 person

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