Following the CDC guidelines, I have scoured my hands a gazillion times and used Clorox wipes like never before. Along with friends and family, I am aiming to stay vigilant and healthy.
Amidst all the call to strong attentiveness in hygiene, I am stirred by the ancient call of Jesus Christ to his disciples.
“. . . you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
Christ was in the Upper Room that night, just a few hours before he was arrested. He had just washed all of his disciples’ feet, including self-confident Peter. Still today, Christians around the world practice washing one another’s feet. It serves as a powerful picture, a potent reminder of risky love, of moving outside ones’ comfort zone, and of genuine, Christ-like humility.
But here’s the kicker: Jesus never intended it to stop with the mere ceremony and symbolism of loving service. Washing feet should motivate us to very tangibly care for others, even and especially during this current season of crisis.
How to care, how to share
What I’ll share right here is in no way exhaustive. It’s simply a starter list of ideas—something like a toolbox. Please feel free to comment and share your own ideas for “washing feet” during this unique season:
Take good care of yourself. In a Christ-honoring way, love yourself well—so that you can love others effectively. Embedded in Jesus call to love your neighbor is the little clause “as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40). Jesus expects we will engage healthy, proper self-love to undergird our selfless expressions. For a great article, applicable to more than just pastors, see Tom Nelson’s advice.
When in doubt, DO. Too often under normal conditions, we are all too prone to hold back and second-guess. But ours are no longer normal conditions. So when in doubt, do. Do reach out, do give a call, or send the text. You can simply say, “Hey, how are you today? Just thinking about you and wanting to touch base.”
Listen more than you blab. Some of us, especially those of us with “fixer” tendencies, tend to jump to solve things, dispense wisdom, and otherwise straighten out others’ thinking. Now more than ever, it’s crucial we follow the advice of Jesus’ little brother, sage James: “be quick to listen, slow to speak . . .” (James 1:19).
Yes, distance. Steer clear. But learn to say, “I love you” more. I think in the midst of all the distancing dynamics, one of the potentially dynamic upsides might be that we learn to vocalize more effectively and profusely. Tenderness and vulnerability are born by saying those three little God-like words. They mean so much to hurting, lonely, seeking souls. That includes all of us these days.
Know the basics of sharing Jesus’ loving story. Christ’s lavish grace, forgiveness of sins, abundant peace, and new purpose. Such gifts are life-changing. Watch for and pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with others. You don’t have to force anything, but you can be bold. Get familiar with key Bible truths like John 3:16, Romans 3:10-23, Romans 6:23, Romans 8, and Ephesians 2:8-10. Review how to share your own story of encountering God’s loving salvation. Think in three scenes: my life before encountering Jesus; how I came to know and follow him; what’s new, changing, and growing now in my life.
And when in doubt, do share your story. Simply share how Jesus’ story is changing your story.
What to say, even when you don’t know what to say
Here are several simple but profound things you can say with compassion and confidence:
“Yes, this all seems very hard and dark right now. That’s true. And there is even greater truth. God is still good. Christ Jesus’ light and love are bigger than all of what we are facing.”
“Things seem so uncertain, indeed. And we have the certainty of knowing his love and faithfulness.”
“In times like these, we all feel overwhelmed. That’s a normal reaction, totally typical and appropriate. It’s okay to feel sad and not okay.”
“It’s very important to determine you won’t let yourself stay stuck, endlessly thinking about how you are ‘sad and not okay.’ Tell someone when you need help. Go ahead, open up. Take the risk. Tell a friend or family member how you are feeling. Getting it out there really helps.”
In VERY dark, desperate situations
If someone reaches out to you or otherwise opens up about desperate feelings, listen, listen, listen. Let her/him just talk. Affirm what the person is saying. Don’t rush to correct what he or she is saying. Just listen and affirm. If what is being said sounds extremely dark and headed in the direction of self-harm or violence, ask the person if they will allow you to help them get some further help from someone else who can also help them.
Washing feet with your prayers
The Psalms in the center of the Bible provide a plethora of solid examples of how to express heart-felt cries to God. For a very measured, engaging, emotionally and spiritually responsible approach to being authentic during this crisis time, see Tom Wright’s article in TIME. (Don’t let TIME’s headline throw you. They designed it as clickbait.) Wright actually offers very solid hope via lament.
Pray simple, honest prayers from your heart. And when you have the opportunity, be bold with others. Offer to pray with someone else. During this Covid-19 crisis, every person will likely need another person to be their pastor. Don’t worry or sweat it. You really are allowed to pastor someone else, even if you’re not officially ordained. One of St. Peter’s core teachings, known as the priesthood of all believers, reinforces how important it is for each of us to re-present God to others (1 Peter 2). One way we can do that is by offering to pray—over the phone or in text—on behalf of someone else.
So consider doing this today, perhaps as you wrap up talking with a friend. Say, “Hey, before we go, can I pray for you and for all of us, in light of all that’s going on right now?” Deep breath. It’s highly likely the person will say, “Yes, please!” (So many people are really, really open to such encouragement right now.) And then simply say something like . . .
Lord, we want to thank you that you never leave us. Especially in times like these, we need you. So please help us hold on right now and trust you more than ever. Please supply for us—and others today—all we need. Please bring your comfort, your love, your peace, your healing, and your great big hope. We are trusting you and counting on you. We thank you that you are always good, even when things feel so bad and sad. We thank you that the story is not over. We praise you, Jesus. Amen.
Simply something like that. Put it in your own words. Nothing flowery is necessary.
Okay, this is just the start of ideas for “washing feet” in these desperate days. Please feel free to comment and share. What do you want to add to our toolbox? I have added below a few additional links to helpful, encouraging resources.
Thank you for all the ways you are already loving others, washing your own hands, and washing others’ feet.
(Certain stat’s are already outdated, but the gist of this TGC article is very solid.)
Additional helpful resources: