I read an excellent little musing on the ceremonial “foot washing” that occurs in some churches at this time of year.
Meant to pay homage to the example Jesus set forth by taking on the role of the lowliest servant by sitting down to wash the filthy feet of his disciples, the ceremony as practiced today is quite different.
Back in bible times, foot washing was a necessity given the vulgar conditions of people’s feet after traveling the dirty streets of Palestine in nothing but sandals, or perhaps barefoot. These were the feet that stepped in dung, among other elements. Upon entering a home it was necessary to wash feet to avoid tracking the filth of the day all over.
This task was often done by servants. Jesus was teaching His disciples that they should never consider themselves above others and to serve them even if the task is unpleasant and distasteful.
In modern ceremony however, most people partaking in such an event more than likely
come to church with their feet sparkling clean and the foot washer does not really have to “wash” anything.
My challenge is to take this real lesson from scripture and apply it in a practical way for today. People generally do not traverse the highways and byways barefoot and most “normal folk” do not have servants to perform menial tasks that are “beneath them.”
But what about the single mother who is facing losing her children because she can not keep order in her household due to working every waking hour to eke out a living? How about pitching in with babysitting for free or bringing by groceries?
What about the “cat lady” who smells bad – how about giving her a ride to the doctor or to the store, even if it makes your car smell afterward?
Would the eager partakers of a “foot washing ceremony” be as willing to do things such as these? If yes, then the lesson of the foot washing has been learned and applied as Christ intended.
If not, then something needs to change – from within. It’s not about the feet. Partaking in a rite for the sake of ceremony is worthless, apart from having “real works” to back it up.
James 2:14-26 (New King James Version)
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your[a] works, and I will show you my faith by my[b] works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?[c] 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”[d] And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
It’s about the heart. As always.