A Lesson from Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Estate
Downton Abbey Estate

I know Jim and I are late for the Downton Abbey* train. We started watching it several weeks ago, now that it is in its last season. I am hooked. You too?

Perhaps not, in which case I will tell you that the show is about a family and their servants that all live in a large house on a large estate. It is set in the early 20th century. The father is an earl and is referred to by the servants as Lord Grantham and his wife as Lady Grantham. Curiously, I was watching to “zone out,” but the Lord Jesus is using it to teach me about lordship and servanthood.

What has really struck me is how the servants react, interact, respond to, and speak of their lord. Their responses are quick and willing. “Yes, my lord” or “No, my lord” (not out of defiance) or even “Very good, my lord.”

Downton-Abbey-CastThe servants operate for their masters and on occasion in place of them. Many times the Bible refers to serving Christ and his Lordship, but I wonder in all the things that we do if we really understand that as his servants we are representative of the Lord Jesus here on earth.

As the famously formal butler, Mr. Carson, reminds one footman, “To progress in your career, William, you must always remember that a good servant at all times retains a sense of pride and dignity that reflects the pride and dignity of the family he serves.” (my emphasis)

Does the gravity of that statement affect you? Paul calls it being an ambassador for Christ; we are acting on his behalf. If you call yourself a Christian, as you live your life you are supposed to be a breathing visible display of the Lord Jesus. Let me tell you something, I have failed, tremendously and repeatedly. My heart, as it waits for where our family will live next, has only been willing to say “Yes, my Lord,” if it is where I want to go. It is nowhere close to saying “Very good, my Lord.”  But that is what my response needs to be to my LORD. Miraculously, I have seen that God put His own Son in a position of servanthood in order to do his Father’s will. He even prays, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” Ultimately, that will was that He (Jesus) would die a sacrificial death to atone for all the times in my life I’ve said “No,” to God. I owe him all of my respect, gratitude, and dare I say it, worship.

All of this makes me uncomfortable even to write, because I don’t want to give control of my life to anyone else.  Even when I have, I don’t want to admit it. My natural inclination is not to call anyone lord except myself. So if you are uncomfortable, you have company here, but don’t retreat. Don’t close your ears, don’t try to go back to comfortable because this discomfort is so much sweeter.

Bow your heart, and I don’t say that lightly because I know it will be a wrestling match to do. Hear this, the Lord God has said, “Come and follow Me.” As you read last week (if you didn’t check it out). It is our turn to say, “Yes, my LORD” and by His grace and Holy Spirit may we come to a place where we hear His voice and respond quickly and without question, “Very good, my Lord”.

*While I have learned from Downton Abbey that does not mean the show is without fault or flaw. It is not a Christian show and does at times portray sin in a positive light.


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