Nothing Too Small

John is the only gospel writer to include the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Because he does, aspiring preachers every year attempt to explain what this custom means and how important it is that Jesus does this. Washing the feet of the grit and dust of the road, in a world where everyone wore open-toed sandals, was a pretty common occurrence. For people who could afford it, servants were usually tasked with the job. But this was a time before floor-coverings were invented. So weren’t people washing their feet only to walk around on dirt floors? Maybe this only applies to going upstairs to living quarters. That would make more sense. Anyway, John makes the connection for us that only servants would be doing this job, and since Jesus stoops to do this for his disciples, they ought to do it for each other. I.e., no one is too good or important for this task of helping a brother. It is an act of humility, a lesson that was very easy to forget, as the church grew, more people venerated the apostles and their disciples, who grew accustomed to the veneration. Modern clergy inherited this sense of “above the rabble” and for used to being called special names like “Father”, “Reverend” and “Pastor”. Foot-washing is almost unknown outside of the Greek Orthodox tradition, which is why it has to be explained every year. Sadly, the lesson is often kept in this very ancient context.

The point is that leadership ought not to get so fancy that it forgets that everyone is a servant. Christianity is a religion of equals, not hierarchy. There is no “Father” or leader who ought to be treated with greater respect than any other brother or sister. All are saved according to the same blood. All are created by the same God. “God is no respecter of persons.” This also means that no job is too small or unimportant in His Kingdom. From the least to the greatest, all are important in God’s sight.

The story of the foot-washing remains one of the most important leadership lessons in the gospels. Never consider yourself too important, too busy, or your work too essential that you forget the law of love. That’s what got the Pharisees in trouble. Never consider yourself too good to help a brother.

God bless you today.

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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