"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.” John 13:14 (NIV)
“You a doctor? Ha! That’s a big laugh. You could never be a doctor! You know why? Because you don’t love mankind, that’s why!” Charles Schulz’s Peanuts character Lucy says this to her brother Linus. “You don’t love mankind.” Linus replies, “I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.”
I wonder. Why didn’t Jesus say: “Go and wash the feet of all the nations in the world”? Jesus does say that sort of thing elsewhere (e.g. Matthew 28:19 “Go and disciple all the nations”).
But not here. Here Jesus says, “Wash one another’s feet.”
Jesus could have said, “People will know you are my disciples by the way you love the world.” Instead, on this last supper evening, he said: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)
Some wag composed a little ditty:
“To love the whole world is no chore – my only problem is the neighbour next door!”
Loving and washing the feet of “the world” is sometimes easier than washing the feet of “one another.”
When I was a teenager, I would gladly spend three hours or more at the May Day Church Spring Cleaning event, but was most reluctant to spend even one hour helping to clean my bedroom. As an adult, I am still reluctant. I make time to sort things out at the office, but keep putting off household concerns.
A manager may be wonderful at relating to the community and Board of Directors, but not so kind with fellow managers, secretary or staff whom he sees each day.
A pastor might be humble in doing important church work, but not so patient or helpful with parents or spouse.
A student might sacrifice humbly her time for the Students Union, but ignore unity and love with a sibling at home.
A church might excel in blessing the community but fail in showing love to one another.
Our problem is not just loving “the neighbour next door.” Loving our brothers and sisters within our doors is also a struggle.
I wonder. Do you?
Humble, loving service to the world or humble, loving service to one another?
Both are important, but what do you think?
Why does Jesus say, “Wash one another’s feet”?
Whose feet will we wash this week?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach us to be humble and willing to wash, not only the feet of Your Son Jesus, but the feet of one another. Amen.
On TRAC Together for God's Word, Worship, Welcome, Witness and Wonder
Rev Dr Gordon Wong
This article was first published in the Oct 2015 issue of the Methodist Message, and is reproduced here with permission.