Some may be sensitive about their feet. As far back as I can remember my feet often create(d) a degree of ogling. You could quickly associate the thoughts, "Those feet are ugly!" My family will on occasion make a comment. I do not find them so off-putting but then again they are mine. I confess to not paying much attention to feet. No foot fetishes here. The older I get the kind of attention my feet look for come in the form of massages and freedom from "dress shoes." Thanks to Crocs, my feet are generally "happy feet."
A couple of weeks ago the text from we wrestled in our church came after Jesus’ washing the disciples feet. An incredible charge to those laying claim to following Jesus, "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you are to love one another. By this all people will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35, ESV) What illustrates the love Jesus had for his disciples? Let’s see, he called on them to leave everything behind and follow him. Sounds pretty demanding!
How could the disciples live out the life of God in the world when some would do the unthinkable – betray another? We candidly rattle off the ditty, "Fool me once shame on thee, fool me twice shame on me." In other words we are too smart. We learn our lessons quickly. When someone wants to treat me poorly I do not have to go back for more. I will even be justified in my feelings toward that person. "After all do you know what they did to me?" (Oddly I do recall this phrase used by no insignificant person when referring to Christian people whom he felt had harmed him and others.) Soon Judas would betray Jesus. When this sunk in did Jesus want the others to take up his offense and harbor hatred and ill-will. No. It appears the action of washing the disciples feet set the stage for what would surely follow. "Love one another as I have loved you."
We often read a text with certain predispositions. When we read a familiar passage over and again it seems our observation skills become numb. Guilty. For you it may have been readily apparent Jesus washed Judas’ feet. For some reason it simply did not register. Quick to get to the action of foot washing and the significance of the "teacher" washing the "students" feet evidenced by Peter’s response obscured my taking account of the people around the room. Many an illustration of servant leadership is tied to the act of washing the feet. We relate this event to those we look to facilitate into leadership and do not consider looking around the room to discover one who will betray another. Intent to convey what it means to be a servant leader we often fail to point out that leadership often includes a discussion around the issue of what will you do when you are betrayed. How we respond to betrayal may mean more than how we are perceived as a servant.
Pastors’ betrayed? We read all too often of pastors who betray. Makes for better headlines. What however is the pastor, leader, Christ-follower to do in the face of betrayal? Jesus set the bar at "love one another." Jesus washed both Judas’ and Peter’s feet. John conveys he did so with the full knowledge both would betray him. The guilt overwhelmed Judas to the point of death. The shame hung around Peter’s shoulders until invited to "feed my sheep."
Would those in need of Jesus see our love for one another. Maybe then we could sense participation with God to set the world to rights – seeing our way to redemptive relationships. Until then all that may be seen is common vindictiveness. One suggestion. Rather than ask whose feet should I wash, why not ask whose feet should I not wash?