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13 February 2013

Washing Away...With Kindness




Wash Each Other’s Feet

Jesus said to His disciples: “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet” (John 13:14). It means to kneel as Jesus knelt, touching the grimy parts of the people we’re stuck with; washing away their unkindnesses with kindness. Or as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.”

“But Max,” you’re saying, “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not the one who cheated. I’m not the one who lied. I’m not the guilty party here.” Perhaps you aren’t. But neither was Jesus. Don’t we all think we are right? Hence we wash each other’s feet. Relationships don’t survive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful! Only one was worthy of having his feet washed. The one worthy of being served, served others.

From Just Like Jesus
~ Max Lucado ~


I was stirred with the truth of these words when my aunt posted them on Facebook recently. There are aspects to this event that we can easily miss. In our religiosity, we can create a doctrine of men that has a form of godliness but denies the power of it. One of those aspects is in verse 4. Jesus stood up and laid aside His garments. He stood up and disrobed. He was naked before them. Exposed. He wrapped Himself in a towel that He would soon use to dry the feet He was about to wash, which meant with each individual, He would voluntarily expose Himself again, and again. A person is no more vulnerable than when they stand naked before another, except that they place themselves lower than the one before whom they stand. Jesus knelt, naked, before each one.

We often grin or giggle at Peters' bold outbursts and innocent resistance to the words of the Savior. But in our society and times we fail to recognize what Peter knew to be true in his society, in his day. When Jesus approached Peter, he was horrified that the Master would wash his feet. Today, we get a little embarrassed in a foot washing because we have been wearing our shoes all day and our feet might be a bit sweaty. In Peters' day, it was not sweat, but dirt, animal dung and the like that soiled their feet. Typically, foot washing was done by the lowliest servant in the house. It would be like scrubbing a port-a-potty, by hand, today. Probably Peter was so resistant because he knew he or one of the others should have thought to wash the others feet, before the meal. It was now after the meal and the Master had eaten and should have been able to relax, but no one was concerned about the filth on His feet, the feet of their friends or their own. It was a disgusting task, something Peter most likely did not want the One that he loved and respected, to do for him. Rather, it is possible that he had a bit of heartache due to his own failure.

How often will we come into communion with one another, ignoring the filth so easily seen on our feet and pretending that the foul smell doesn't intermingle with the fragrance of grace, because we don't want to humble ourselves and be exposed before those we profess to love? 

As the chapter continues, we find that Jesus, having full knowledge that Judas would betray Him that night, washed his feet, just as He did Peter, James and John. This is where the words of Max Lucado struck me. "...touching the grimy parts of people...washing away their unkindnesses with kindness". Jesus would never be more vulnerable to His enemy than He was at the moment that He knelt, naked and exposed, before Judas. (It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. But God has shown us how much he loves us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.)

Today, in our culture, it seems that foot washing has become a thing to do in church. I agree, it is a thing to do in the church. It is appropriate to become vulnerable before one another, fully exposing ourselves, as we kneel to wash away the muck and mire from the feet of the brethren. Not afraid to get our own hands dirty so that another might be free of the excrement that their walk through this world has left. That excrement looks like unkindness, a cross word, a greeting rebuffed, a sarcastic remark. It has the unkind scent of hostility and betrayal with no known cause. A brother will no more want you to touch the unkindnesses on him than you will desire to touch it. But if your kindness is a desire to love for freedoms' sake, he will accept the kindness of your washing touch and not take advantage of your nakedness. Occasionally, you will encounter a Judas, who will disdain your exposure and offer you up as a sacrifice. But don't let that stop you from washing away anothers' unkindnesses with your kindness.

Jesus didn't wash the feet of every one. He only washed the feet of those who walked in the way with Him, as an example, with an encouragement, to do the same for one another. Foot washing is an act of love to those who will falter and fail. It is an expression of love that will strengthen them to rise again and continue the journey.