Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Washing of Feet

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
I John 4:11
Dad was from Tennessee, Mom from southern Ohio.
They were common people, very down-to-earth, 
extremely giving,
the kind who would give you the shirt right off your back 
if you needed it more than they did.
They taught me the purest of values,
instilled in me a great awe and a deep longing for God,
and an overwhelming desire to bless and help others.
They taught all of this to me, not only by words,
but much more through example....
in how they lived their own lives.

I've seen Dad go often to a fellow Christian brother's home
to care for his afflicted feet.
I can still see Dad bent over,
on his knees,
in front of the elderly man's recliner,
washing and relieving the pain.

I've seen him walk to the side of a dying man's makeshift bed
set up in the downstairs dining room of his home,
because he was no longer able to climb the stairs to his room.
The man was a firm believer in Divine Healing,
and had a strongly-planted faith in the power of God.
It was his consecration that if God chose not to heal him,
he was ready to go to Heaven, where he would receive a new body...
free from pain and disease.
He was never examined by a doctor during his illness,
but it was assumed by all that he was suffering from some form of cancer...
possibly of the throat or lungs.
At any rate, he was coughing up blood
and very, very ill.
The smell was near-unbearable.
Dad would stand there helping him.
Cleaning things up.
Trying to be a comfort.
Never complaining.
The man wasn't family,
but he was a brother in Christ.

I remember a time Mom and Dad went to see a man in the hospital 
who was suffering from a disease transmitted to him 
through the promiscuous life he chose to live.
They were told by the hospital staff that the disease 
was very contagious and highly communicable.
They had to don masks, gowns, and gloves just to go in to see him.
He wasn't a family member or even the closest of friends.
But, they felt a compassion for him and his plight,
and they wanted to show him the love of Jesus.
So, they took their chances...
and followed Christ....
right into that undesirable, dismal room.

There was a dear, elderly, wheel-chair-bound lady we used to visit on a regular basis
who had difficulty bathing, due to her size and condition.
The odor was near-overwhelming.
The whole house was affected, and it took everything I had,
as a child to keep from becoming ill while there.
Mom had a very weak stomach and used to have to spray perfume on her handkerchief
and hold it in her hand, discreetly, under her nose
so she could bear the stench....
just so we could sit with that woman,
talk to her,
pray with her,
sing to her,
be there for her.
She was a precious soul.
I'll never forget how her face used to light up when we walked in,
her toothless grin,
or the sweet hug she always had waiting for us.

Mom and Dad were not perfect.
But, they tried their utmost to please the only One Who is.
It was the joy of their lives to know they were blessing others.
No matter what it cost them, personally.
They taught me that there are things far more important than my own comfort and ease.

Dad was a man who would jump in...
just because there was a need.
He didn't have to be asked.
He wasn't too good to do the dirty work
or the unpleasant tasks that others found too revolting.
Nothing was beneath him.
Mom used to tell me that her and Dad's calling was for personal work.
Visiting the sick and shut-ins,
singing to them,
reading the Bible to them,
praying for them,
being Jesus' hands and feet.

People like Mom and Dad are in a classification all by themselves.
Where do you find people like that these days?
They are what I call a vanishing breed.
In danger of extinction.

We just don't want to get our hands dirty anymore.
We think someone else will do the dirty work.
After all, we can't take the chance of becoming contaminated.
We operate under a spirit of pride and self-exaltation...
to the degree that we appear very aloof to the non-believing, hurting world around us.

In later years, Mom suffered so immensely.
Due to severe colon issues, 
she had to wear an ostomy for the last few years of her life.
It was quite a devastating blow for Mom to wake up from surgery
and find that this was the only result the surgeon could come up with
to save and prolong her life.
But, Mom was made of a strong composition..
At 80 years old, she took on the challenge.
Bless her dear heart, she dealt with it like a real trooper.

I will probably never forget the day I heard about
 a terribly insensitive comment that was made by a fellow-church goer
who didn't think Mom should continue to attend public services, because of her ostomy.
It hurt right down to the core of my being...
to know that we attended church with such hypocrisy,
such insensitivity,
such blatant pride,
such unlike-Jesus people.
Mom was treated with disrespect and unfriendliness 
and left that building deeply wounded more times than I can remember.

It must be beyond-sickening to God...
to see us don our Sunday best,
faithfully attend our Sunday services,
yet, live and act the total opposite of Jesus Christ.

What good does it do?
For us to be so committed?
To never miss a service?
To faithfully warm our reserved pew week after week?
If we don't take it to the streets.
If we don't put it all in practice.
If we can't even live it right church?

We are one of the most spiritually-enlightened nations on earth.
We are inundated and bombarded with the Gospel...
through mediums our forefathers never even imagined.
It isn't for a lack of having access to what Jesus was like
and knowing what we should be doing
that the world is not seeing Jesus.

Remember the lepers?
They were unlovable.
The smell that emanated from their diseased bodies was horrific.
The sight of their rotting flesh was revolting.
These were people no one wanted.
There was nothing about them that would have caused enjoyment in being around them.
They couldn't even go home to their families.
They were ostracized.
Unable to live normal lives.
Beyond human reach.

Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, God's own and only begotten Son,
King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator of the universe.
He didn't have to, but He chose to live and breathe in a human body...
just like yours and mine.
He loved beyond any measure or capacity you and I will ever comprehend.
He wasn't afraid of leprosy.
He loved the lepers....with an eternal, uncontrollable, genuine love.
He loved them so much that He drew near them.
He didn't only draw near...He went a step further.
He did the unthinkable.

"And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, 
Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, 
I will; be thou clean
And immediately his leprosy was cleansed."
Matthew 8:2,3
(Emphasis added.)

Do you see any sign of recoil?
Did Jesus turn away?
Did He show a superior attitude?
Did He stand at arm's length and speak the healing into existence?

Ah!  The untold volumes spoken through Jesus' reaction.
"Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him."
He touched him!
How long had it been?
Since this man had felt the soothing comfort of human hands upon his skin?
He was a leper!
Not to be touched.
Jesus defied human reasoning...every step of the way.
He came to change our way of looking at others.
He came to teach...not only by means of words...
but by living example.

If Jesus touched lepers, 
should we not reach our hands to the untouchables?
Should we not hug the imperfect ones?
Wrap our arms around the ostracized?
Hold them close?
Love on them?
Just like Jesus?

Who are we trying to emulate anyway?
What good is self-righteousness?
Who ever won a soul by donning a Pharisee's robe?
"Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou."
(Isaiah 65:5)

I miss Mom and Dad.
I miss their mindset.
I miss their unselfish, no-regard-for-self-or-how-it-is-affecting-me spirit.
It is what Jesus is all about.

He needs humble people.
To visit the undesirables,
to love the unlovables,
to touch the untouchables,
to hug the draw them close enough to hear His heartbeat,
to carry on His work.

Jesus touched the lepers.
He ate with the sinners and extortioners.
He washed the feet of His Own traitor.
He hung on a cross intended for a save the murderer.
He forgave the men whose hands held the hammer, drove the nails, and raised the cross.
He died for you...and for me....
so that we could be filled with His grace...
to do likewise....
as He did.

After serving His disciples in the humblest of ways 
by washing their dirty, tired, possibly smelly feet,
He told them to do the same...for each other.
"So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, 
and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; 
ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."
John 13:12-15
(Emphasis mine)

There is more to washing feet than merely performing the act at a feetwashing service.
I think the point Jesus made right after His last supper with His disciples
is often overlooked and misinterpreted.
The washing of feet was reserved for the lowliest of servants.
It was a necessity in those days, 
due to miles of walking in sandal-clad feet on dusty roads.
The feet washers had a very undesirable, humbling task.

Jesus chose to do what He did.
He didn't wait for someone else to do it.
His disciples' feet needed washed.
So, He did the thing they needed.

We are to another.
If the Lord of Heaven,
God in the flesh,
stooped to serve and perform 
the lowliest, most undesirable of tasks,
should we not do the same...
for each other?

We live in a different day...a different time.

My feet have been washed in countless ways.
I am consistently served through the kind hearts and hands of
the sweetest, most humble husband and son in the world,
through the thoughtfulness of other family members,
through sweet, caring, precious friends...
and strangers....
who possess humble hearts and willing hands, ready to serve.

There are multiple ways to Jesus served.
Be creative.
Go lift someone's load.
Do someone's laundry.
Cook someone a meal.
Bake someone a cake.
Visit someone who is sick.
Donate clothes to someone who needs them.
Take a chore off a co-worker's desk and see it through with a happy heart.
Run an errand for someone who has no transportation.
Buy someone's groceries and deliver them with a smile.
Pray for someone.
Write a check to pay someone's car payment.
Look someone in the eye, tell them you care, and mean it.
Pay for the meal of the people in the car behind you in the drive-thru.
Go spend an hour talking to a stranger in a nursing home.
Sit with a housebound elderly person from church
Mail a surprise care package to a friend out of state.
Hug you mean it.
Tell the cashier to add the cost of the groceries of the person in front of you in line
to the amount you owe for your own....
send the blessed person on their way with a smile and restored faith in the kindness of humanity.
Babysit to give some grateful, weary couple a quiet meal alone together in a restaurant.
Go a step further...hand them a gift certificate to pay for it on their way out the door.
Pick some flowers, put them in a pretty vase, and leave them on someone's porch...
or desk or workstation...
or church pew.

Go wash someone's feet.

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