“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14
It’s often the case when you grow up in the church, especially at a mega-church like me, that the concept of serving can get skewed. Service becomes a thing of praise and recognition, even used in reference to just the person behind the pulpit or the one praying for the masses.
What about the ones in remote or vulnerable places of the world, reaching just a few and doing so far from any spotlight or public reward? And what of those who aren’t called to “ministry” and are instead called to medical professions, or media, or teaching at public schools? Are they serving?
Beginning at a young age, I was told that I was destined to be used by God in great (and very public) ways, within the context of the Church. In and of themselves, such words of encouragement aren’t necessarily wrong or harmful, but they have the potential of creating a separation between “those who are called to serve” and those who are not, and at best they create a false hierarchy of service (my way of serving is better than yours).
Christ flattens this hierarchy and shatters the system with a paradox: to climb up, that is, to get closer to Him and become more like Him, we must go low.
Though I’m only in my 20s, I can look back and see the ways in which I idolized serving, admittedly from a lack of humility (and I still could use much, much more of it). If you had told me that one day I would be working at Word Made Flesh, or (alongside my walk with WMF) helping run a community center for at-risk youth and children in Versailles, KY, I would’ve told you that I wasn’t cut out for any of it. These things weren’t my call. And indeed, they weren’t, because service in my mind was not anchored in the Lord and Teacher who washes feet.
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” (John 13:8)
The scandalous scene from John 13 should cause us to look inward and come to terms with Peter’s offense: How could the Son of God get His hands so dirty and take such a lowly posture? This is blasphemy! Surely, it is I who should wash your feet. You can never serve me. You’re the Perfect One, I’m too unclean.
Jesus’ teaching here should humble us every day: Yeah, we’re pretty unclean, but unless He loves and serves us in this way, we can’t be with Him, and we certainly can’t serve Him.
The moment we start to believe that we don’t need Christ’s service to us is the moment we stop sharing the Grace and Love that enable us to serve at all.
When you let Him wash your feet, when we receive His ministry to us, we suddenly become aware of how many more feet He longs to wash through us. Thus, service becomes an expression of our fellowship with Him.
This is what our Word Made Flesh friends and family are doing all over the world — being Jesus’ hands to wash the feet of those who have been forgotten. They’re serving Jesus in His washing of hopelessness, injustice, and oppression off the feet of people suffering great vulnerability.
Washing feet and serving the community looks different from context to context. Whether they are offering play therapy to children in Moldova or working with women among the brothels of Bolivia, the folks in this issue of The Cry reflect on the things they’ve learned about service while on the field.
Kristin Bacher, who serves in WMF Sierra Leone, offers that sometimes serving can just look like listening to others, and Patrick Samuel who founded WMF Chennai tells us that sometimes the best way to serve someone is to love them just as they are.
My prayer is that this issue will both encourage you and inspire you to serve Jesus and wash feet in whatever context you might be in. Perhaps it is behind a pulpit, in a remote village somewhere, or as you work with a patient, customer, or student.
Our work is simply to remember Christ the Servant, and to do the things He did with great love.
Editor of The Cry