In the Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, our friend and lead character, George Bailey, finds himself looking over the side of a bridge, regretting his life and contemplating suicide. As his eyes intensify to follow through and leap over the bridge, George’s guardian angel in the movie, Clarence, acts quickly and jumps into the icy waters before George does. As Clarence thrashes in the water and yells, “Help! Help!” George immediately abandons his suicide mission and jumps in the water to save a stranger.
In this film, we see a model for helping another which requires jumping in ourselves – and that’s actually the model Jesus Christ uses to save us. How do we follow in the footsteps of Clarence and Jesus and jump in to save another?
In Philippians 2, Paul describes our Savior’s method of saving as he explains that Jesus, “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.” (vv. 6-7) God knew He couldn’t serve us while still on a mountaintop; to reach us, God emptied Himself of the glory, honor, and worship He rightly deserved and took on human flesh – all to be a servant. Likewise, Clarence understood that he couldn’t help George unless he got off that bridge and became a servant of George. Are we trying to help others without being their servant? Are we trying to help others without jumping in ourselves?
In the world, servanthood is usually left to those without any other options; those who have little education or experience usually find themselves in servant’s roles. Jesus turns this custom on its head as he tells the disciples, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must a slave to all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45) In Jesus’ eyes, servants aren’t lowly, minimum wage workers at all, but they’re the great ones. In other words, choose servanthood.
For Jesus, there was greatness in the cross on Calvary. For Clarence, there was greatness in those icy cold waters. Where will we find greatness? For us, greatness could be in doing a job the world says is beneath us – all for the purpose of building up God’s people. Maybe we’ll find greatness in sharing Christ’s love with that friend in their troubles, though we know it will be challenging. Regardless of our jumping-off point, whether it’s from the throne of heaven or just a little bridge, rest assured, if we come down to serve, like Jesus and Clarence, God will exalt us. (James 4:10)