I’ve washed a lot of people’s feet. I don’t like feet.
Usually, out of the two main “foot-washing passages” in the Bible, it’s easiest for me to grasp the Biblical account of Jesus washing John’s feet in John 13. It’s humbling, sure. The Creator and perfect Savior washed an imperfect man’s feet. That’s hard to swallow… But because we’re used to talking about the unimaginable grace of Jesus, it’s still understandable.
But then, we get the story of Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet in Luke 7. Mary Magdalene the Prostitute. Mary Magdalene the sinner. Mary Magdalene the outcast… She washed Christ’s feet.
She wasn’t a servant whose only job was to clean guests’ feet. She wasn’t even supposed to touch men for fear of contaminating them. But Jesus… Jesus let her wash his feet. Not only did he let her wash his feet… She used her hair. Who knows where that filthy wretch had been?
Two accounts of service. I’d much rather put myself in the shoes of the humbled disciple than the humiliated, repentant whore.
Usually, foot-washing is a sweet, simple reminder of Christ’s willingness to serve us. The Greater serves the lesser. He never turned down a chance to serve someone as a way to encourage unity. Usually, I wash a fellow congregant’s already-clean feet just as a symbol of that. It’s easy, it’s short and easily forgotten. I’ve been a part of a church that does feet-washing since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.
In all honesty, though, I don’t remember any of those people I’ve “served.”
I do, however, remember the time(s) God whispered to my heart at the stupidest of times, “Change of plans. Get on your knees. Take their shoes off and wash their feet. I asked you to serve them once and instead you served yourself. Show them what it means to serve when you let Me take over.”
It was in that moment I knew I had stopped praying for that particular person because my shame was larger than my desire to serve. Any time I started a prayer, it felt impossible to finish. Pray for him? I had hurt him! I can’t bless him by praying for him and act like my sin had never impacted him.
So, I got down on my knees and showed my own heart what it meant to serve as a gateway to reconciliation. It wasn’t humiliating, but it was indeed humbling. It wasn’t life-changing, but it was heart-changing. I have no idea if he understood why washing his feet was my only option… But I had to wash his feet.
Often, we’re called to do crazy things in order to instigate reconciliation within the Body of Christ. I struggle to do many of those things (like washing an unsuspecting man’s feet!) if I can’t see the end result. If I can’t guarantee my act of service, humility, or courage will heal a wound, why put myself out there in the first place? What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m made an even bigger fool?
What if God got it wrong?
Or, is it possible that’s not the issue? Could it be an act of obedience to encourage reconciliation is counted as a success because of how it changes our hearts, not the person we’re serving?