Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Lost Art of Foot Washing

For today's post I am putting an article that was published by The Bible Advocate in 2011:

The Lost Art of Foot Washing

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
John 13:3-5 NIV
     Why, in the body of Christ, is foot washing such a rare occurrence when Jesus himself said, “We ought to wash one another’s feet?” Ought means duty, obligation something we owe. When was the last time you washed your brother or sister’s feet? Or have you ever? Perhaps you feel it something to be done only by the Pastor or his wife as a church ordinance or tradition but I challenge you to think of it in a new way.
      Try to imagine how you would feel if the Lord was washing your feet, as he did to the disciples. Close your eyes and picture this in your mind. Feel the soothing warmth of the water, the strength of His strong hands massaging your feet and toes. The texture and smell of the soap is rejuvenating. You felt so weary and tired but now your feet are tingling. You are refreshed and humbled by His touch. Your soul feels restored by His service of love to you.
     How shocked the disciples must have been to see their Master coming to them girded with a towel and carrying a basin. He was their Master yet He was doing the work of a servant. “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this, (John 13:7)” was Jesus answer when Peter questioned Him.
     “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.”

As a Church Ritual

     There are churches that advocate “foot-washing” as part of a Christian’s walk. The “Church of God” includes the practice as an Ordinance. The “Old-line Primitive Baptist” and also “The True Jesus Church,”* a non-denominational church that originated in Beijing, China in 1917, believes in “foot washing.” It is an act of humility and love and this practice as a church ritual may be done once or twice a year or along with communion services. Some churches only do it on Maundy Thursday.

 As a Personal Gift of Love

    There have been times the Lord had told me to serve in this way. Once to prepare a sister for her wedding day, I washed and perfumed her feet. Another time, a conflict arose in a relationship and the Lord impressed upon me I must humble myself and serve by foot washing. This was part of the restoration of the relationship. Several times the Lord has sent me purely as an act of love.
     I had the privilege of washing the feet of a saint who was about 95 years old. Her walk in this world had been long and hard. She lived through the days of having no civil rights and many injustices. When the Lord sent me, He gave me specific scriptures to read. We had a wonderful time of fellowship, prayer and praise. She said to me when I came in, “Do whatever the Lord told you to do, I know He sent you!” This experience bonded us together in a way that I would not have imagined. Now that she has passed on to her heavenly home, I will always treasure ministering to her in that way.

Biblical Exhortation

     In the book of 1st Timothy, Paul gives examples of godliness, “…well reported for good works; if she has brought up children, if she lodged strangers, if she has washed the saint’s feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.” (1st Timothy 5:1) 

A New Version of the Practice

     Husbands, have you considered washing the feet of your wife? Could it go along with the exhortation:  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27 (New International Version)
      Ladies, have you considered washing the feet of your husband? It may be the last thing in the world you want to do for him. But would you consider blessing him in that way? Our lives are too hectic. This could be a time for to help him to slow down and reflect.
     I was once very burdened for a friend and I didn’t know what to do for her. I decided to visit her, and as I was leaving my home I felt I should take my basin, towel and soaps with me. What my friend needed was someone to spend time with her. She didn’t need my words or someone to try to “fix her,” she needed someone to listen and be obedient to the Holy Spirit. Although foot-washing did occur there is also such a thing as spiritually washing your friend’s feet just by giving your time and love. One time a friend felt uncomfortable with me washing her feet but she let me massage soothing lotion on her hands as I prayed a blessing upon her. It is a gift you give that cannot be purchased at a store.

Tools of the Trade

     Practical things to keep on hand if you feel the Lord is calling you to serve the Body of Christ in this way are special liquid soaps, lotions and clean towels in a basin or plastic tub. You might want to keep them handy in a closet or in your car. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, yet the Lord can make the experience very special by His Holy Spirit. If time and water are limited I’ve found that washing with lotion can be refreshing to friends. I wasn’t sure if that qualified as foot washing until a sister whispered to me at her wedding reception how renewed she felt after I had washed her feet with lotion several days before the wedding.

Let the Spirit Move

     I am giving examples of private situations, but never restrict the Holy Spirit. I witnessed my husband wash the feet of a man he barely knew in a small group meeting. This man had come to a deep relationship with the Lord through serving time in prison. The look of joy on his face amidst tears streaming down is something I will always remember, as I looked on. In turn, his wife was prompted to wash her mother’s feet, a woman who has mentored hundreds of people. Much blessing came that night as the Spirit moved.
    When Mary washed Jesus’ feet it was a public display of adoration and preparation for His death. People were reproving the act of love she gave, but Jesus said, “Let her alone; why are you troubling her? She has done a good and beautiful thing to Me---Praiseworthy and noble. And surely I tell you, wherever the good news  (the gospel) is proclaimed to the entire world, what she has done will be told for a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:6&9) The Amplified Bible
     Jesus said, “…what you do for the least of these, you do for Me.” I can’t be as Mary, and wash His feet with my tears, but the Lord can and will use my hands to wash the feet of members of His body. What about you?   

 Donna Collins Tinsley

1 comment:

  1. Donna - what a blessing to be reminded of this. As a child, I remember going to church with my grannie on a Sunday when foot washing was scheduled. It amazed me to see her having her feet washed that day. I'll never forget it.

    Once, my daughter and I attended a retreat and washed each other's feet. Another beautiful memory.

    I've been putting lotion on my mama's feet since she went into the nursing home and she really enjoys it. Touch is so important to her now.

    Thank you for the beautiful post and a important reminder of I Timothy 5:1.