When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you. John 13:12-13, 15 CSB
This dramatic example of caring for each other hardly happens at our daily dinner time. We seem to have less time for preparing healthy meals, and we increasingly want everything “now”. In the world of close relatives – people authorized to be or allowed in our homes – washing the feet follows the kiss at the door (we also take the coat or outerwear), and if we are observant, we might offer the guest a quick touch up to their appearance, some oil for the hair and an extra pillow or too so they can “make themselves at home”.
A lot of loving has a reason
The three hard realities of caring are kiss, water, and oil. A woman leads the way! I am not surprised.
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (Luke 7:44) You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. (Luke 7:45) You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. (Luke 7:46) Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
The scope of humble service
Maybe “caring for one another” can be restricted to disciples, so we can absolve ourselves of being this nice to strangers or non-intimates. If that is to be sustainable, we have to realize that the lordship of the great Footwasher finds no parallel in our relations with anyone. A host would kiss his guests at the door, have his servant make the guest comfortable, if not basking in the abundance of generosity, and acceptance. We also have to recognize that we are not authorized to do washes that have any cleansing efficacy. We do not wash feet in order cleanse people from sin.
Taking it to the street
We may be ritually washing the feet of people who are woefully unaware of the glory of loving humble service, yet we do it. We may be habitually missing scores of foot-washing opportunities because we do not care for people the way Christ cared for Judas. Our xenophiobic DNA is killing us.
Grace is a thing we get and yet we contort ourselves to avoid being kind to sinners. Away from the ritual washing of clean feet we realize that the Master’s example is an attitude fix, not a thing to do now and then. Let us take it to the “others”: the Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, knowing full well that we are not bosses, only devoted and persistent slaves.