More than just clean feet.
March 28, 2013
It was a model of hospitality to provide guests with a means of rinsing their feet upon entering your home. Jesus alluded to it in his conversation with Simon the Pharisee (see Luke 7:44). But when he washed the disciples feet following the last supper, it wasn’t just about removing the day’s dust. He was giving them an example of humble affection. (see John 13:1-16) It’s our example too.
Let’s go back to that night: 12 disciples of varying degrees of spiritual aptitude. One was a betrayer, one a doubter, one a denier, several who argued amongst themselves, all of them frequently faithless and dull. Yet, the Bible in no way indicates that Jesus avoided or only cursorily cleansed the feet of any of them. Jesus made no determination in his care that some were less worthy than the others. He washed them all. And then he followed up with the profound imperative: love one another as I have loved you. (John 13:34)
If we confine our own humble affection to a yearly ritual of foot washing – or even to regular and ongoing acts of kindness – we miss the most important point of his directive: emulating the deep, pure, unconditional and transforming love of the Christ.
What if we truly washed the feet of everyone in our sphere? I don’t mean the soapy water, bucket, and towel routine, but the more private mental one? What if we strove to wipe away – in thought – whatever dirt and dust had accumulated on the mental images we hold of others? Isn’t that really the kind of love Jesus was talking about?
That would include not only co-workers, neighbors, family members, and those with whom we go to church, but politicians, TV personalities, community, national, and world leaders. In other words, everyone.
Everything in Jesus’ teachings points to this thorough individual spiritual work: the Sermon on the Mount; his healing ministry; his resurrection. Is there anything in his record that says just love those that love you? No, in fact he rebukes that. (see Luke 6:32) He also rebuked just cleaning the outside and leaving the inside untouched. (Matt. 23:26)
One of his final statements to his followers – and hence to us – makes clear what his expectation was: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35) That must include universal humanity if we are to be truly obedient.
And that’s a lot more than just clean feet! It’s a sparkling new world.
Here’s a lovely thought from 19th century theologian (and the founder of the religion I follow), Mary Baker Eddy: “Cleanse every stain from this wanderer’s soiled garments, wipe the dust from his feet and the tears from his eyes, that you may behold the real man, the fellow-saint of a holy household.” (Retrospection and Introspection, page 86)
Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.