“Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:5
Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet during His final Passover meal is only mentioned in one of the four gospels (John), but for centuries Christians have focused on this moment’s significance, impact and lessons for us today.
Clearly, this act—on Jesus’ final night before His crucifixion—is one of servanthood. We would not think the king of the coming kingdom would serve anyone. He should be served! But Jesus chose instead to paint a poignant picture of who we need to be as His followers. And He did so by washing the grimy, calloused feet of those who followed Him.
Which creates a question. What is a modern-day equivalent of foot-washing?
While many still practice actual foot-washing as a reminder and example, because we aren’t as likely to wear sandals (well, we do wear Chacos) and walk on dirt roads all day, what is 21st century practice which follows Jesus’ powerful act of service?
May I offer one, which I often overlook? Listening.
Here is why.
In today’s world, society is wedded to IPhones, Droids, laptops. We’re texting, Facebooking, Twittering, Instagramming and Linking In. Any conversation is easily derailed by the distraction of a call, a “Let me just text him/her back really quickly” or a need to rush off to the next thing in our busy lives.
Today, we don’t worry about dirty feet too much. Still, our lives get messy. And sometimes, the only way to wash off the dirt in our lives is to vent to a friend who listens, as we try to make sense of it all.
Our modern dirt is often found in a metaphorical desert, where our spiritual life converges with the challenge of trying to live out our faith in a mixed-up world. When the wind and rain of circumstances hits us from all directions as we try to walk out this faith, our spiritual feet get dirty.
Our dirt may not be a sin with which we are struggling, and it may not be a situation which demands fixing. In fact, because social media and first-world standards almost force us to hide our grime, it’s difficult for anyone to see the muck and mire which clutters our lives.
And, we try to ignore our messes as we rush to keep up with the frenetic pace at which we live.
Still, we need someone around who will listen. Because for all of us, that moment comes when we look down at our feet—trying to walk forward in this path of faith—and see they are covered with the cares of life. They need washing.
Jesus, on his final night with his disciples, stopped. He took the time needed to thoroughly wash each man’s feet. He listened as Peter asked, mistakenly, for more. And we can be sure He listened to others as He carefully cleaned those feet which had taken the journey with Him over three years.
Sometimes, the best example of servanthood we can offer to another is the gift of listening. No judgment, no quick fixes, no pat answers. Just. Listening.
If we offer this gift, perhaps our friend will experience a refreshing rain as the overwhelming circumstances of life wash away. And the feet our friend needs to walk this journey are once again clean, ready for another next step toward the One who loves us.
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