Monday, September 7, 2015
When I was in grade school I had the privilege of living with my mother’s parents in Stratford, Oklahoma. My grandparent’s house was five blocks from the school building. In the third block between those two destinations was a church building that I passed each school day. One of my friends attended that church. During the summer just about every church, regardless of denominational affiliation, held a revival. That church was no different. My friend invited me to attend with him. He tweaked my curiosity by telling me I would see something in his church that didn’t take place in mine!
So, I went. We sat toward the back of the sanctuary. The typical songs and prayers were offered. So far, nothing new. My friend coaxed my patience with, “Just wait. You’ll see.” After the third song and second prayer, a man, perhaps the pastor, announced there would be a “foot washing.” Although I was only eight years old, I knew what those two words meant. Summer meant “shedding your shoes”! Shoes were worn only when we went to church! Bare feet get dirty. So, before going to bed, both grandmother and mom would remind me to “wash your feet”!
The preacher read a passage from the Bible about how Jesus rose from the table, got a towel, and washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:4-12). Since the Lord’s supper was also instituted on that evening, the preacher said foot washing was as much a part of worship as partaking of the communion. I vaguely knew about the Lord’s supper because we did that at least once each year. Since I was young, I was overly curious about this “foot washing.” Not everyone participated. Eight people went to the front. It surprised me that half took off a single shoe and the accompanying sock. The other half were provided pans of water which the singular bare foot was placed in and the person with the pan, washed his neighbor’s foot. Then they exchanged places. That was it, but my friend’s prediction was true, we didn’t do that in my church!
That evening at bedtime, I heard my usual reminder to “wash your feet.” Since I had just learned that “foot washing” was cleansing only one foot, I thought if it was good enough in church, why not at home? Neither my grandmother nor my mom were impressed with my newly found faith! I never could figure out why it was always my right ear that favored their pull! However, one good jerk and I became very obedient!
As I look back on that foot washing service I wondered why they washed what wasn’t dirty? After a day’s worth of playing, you would understand why I received my nightly reminder! If they were dirty, why not wash both? Since most first century folks walked everywhere, and shoes were a sole with straps, feet got dirty. When visiting in someone’s home, the owner had his servants wash a guest’s feet as common courtesy. In the upper room, the apostles were concerned about who was the greatest (Luke 22:24). Jesus used this cultural courtesy to teach how to reach greatness. Be a servant! Somehow that lesson didn’t penetrate my eight year old brain as I watched that foot washing scene.
So often we mimic the motions of things recorded in the Bible, but miss its purpose completely. Like Israel, we strictly obey the commands, but our lives hardly reflect the kind of salt, city, or light Jesus referred to (Matthew 5:13-15). The world can’t see Jesus because we’re blocking their view! Shouldn’t we ask from time to time, “Why am I doing this? What is my purpose? Where is my heart?”