It takes grace to wash someone else’s dirty feet
Kids do it all the time. They run barefoot and unthinkingly onto Mom’s clean floor, leaving muddy tracks for her to clean up. If we don’t like dirty floors, sometimes we have to resort not only to clean the floor, but also to wash their feet. We need to teach our kids proper behavior, but our love should compel us to look beyond the dirty floor and dirty feet.
Foot washing is a symbol of humility and servanthood. Some churches practice the ritual even today. Perhaps we all should. We’d be following Jesus’ example when He washed the feet of all His disciples — including Judas. He took a towel and lowered Himself to His knees, just as a slave would have done for his master.
Jesus meant His literal example in the metaphoric sense, too. When we humbly serve others in any way, we serve Jesus. “‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them … ‘Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”
Humility is often viewed as a character weakness. What strength do we exhibit by giving up or walking away or showing our “wimpy” emotions? Humility, however, is a purposeful act of love shown by placing ourselves beneath another to meet their need. It’s being the first to apologize. It’s giving a hand up to the guy ahead of us in the race at the expense of winning. It’s turning the other cheek rather than retaliating when someone criticizes us.
Humility and servanthood are what Jesus expressed when Judas betrayed Him, when His own people killed Him, when Peter denied Him. He humbled Himself before unclean lepers, an immoral woman and the demon possessed — for the sake of their healing. For the sake of His Father’s love and grace.
It takes grace to wash someone’s spiritually dirty feet. It takes grace to keep from scolding or criticizing them for leaving muddy tracks on our pristine self-image. It takes grace to look at them with the eyes of love and compassion. A friend of mine, speaking about a crude co-worker, said, “It’s not my job to wash his mouth out, but to wash his feet.”
Lord, by the power of Your Spirit, give us the grace to see beyond the flaws into the hearts of others, as You have done for us. In Jesus’ name, amen.