Pride is a tenacious, sneaky, and deadly thing. It can lurk even in places where we find ourselves deeply wounded or hurting. It can lurk even when we believe ourselves to be humble. Benjamin Franklin humorously suggested that if ever he were able to rid himself of pride, he’d surely end up being proud about it.
Last week during a time of prayer, God gave me an image of Jesus washing people’s feet, mine included. I was praying about gay pride month. Over the years, I’ve heard from many people who expressed that even in the midst of participating in gay pride celebrations, deep down, they knew this wasn’t what God had for them, and when the celebrations were over, they were left feeling empty and alone. I know there are many LGBT+ people right now who are longing to be known, to belong, and to be loved.
Jesus kneels to wash willing feet.
I also know many devout Christians who adhere to a biblical perspective on sexuality (and do not celebrate gay pride), but who also personally struggle with ongoing same-sex attractions. For these, this time can be a time of increased temptation and loneliness as well. One young man I know feels he lives in no-man’s land: On the one hand, he doesn’t fit in the LGBT+ community because of his Christian faith; on the other hand, he feels he doesn’t fit in the church because of his same-sex attractions.
Again, Jesus kneels to wash willing feet.
Finally, for devout Christians saddened by a loved one’s embrace of an LGBT+ identity, this month can be painful because the very thing you grieve, you see friends and neighbors celebrate.
Here again, Jesus kneels to wash willing feet.
In the image I saw in prayer, Jesus’ cloak was set aside, he was on his knees, and his head was bowed as he worked to cleanse the dirt and dung from the soles and between the toes of each one. He worked with such tenderness and such sincerity. This was no show. He wanted to serve.
I can think of no other words to describe the scene except two: Humility and love. For the Word made flesh, the Incarnate Lord of all, to bend so low and take on such a task. He did not grumble nor skimp on the job needing done.
This part of our bodies we usually do not like to draw attention to becomes Jesus’ primary focus. He does not point, he makes no joke at our expense, he does not hold his nose. He bends down with water and towel…and skilled, loving hands.
The truth is, all of us need him in this way.
But we also see that Jesus’ willingness is not enough.
John 13 describes two at the Passover table who object to Jesus’ humble, loving offer. Peter pulls his feet back, insisting this is not a job he will allow Jesus to do for him. Jesus’ response is soberingly clear and direct: “If you do not let me wash you, you have no part in me.”
For all we might say about Peter, he is passionate about Jesus. So, he extends his filthy feet.
The other one who objects does so only secretly. Judas says nothing as Jesus takes his feet in his hands. Judas plays the part, but inwardly, he has already made up his mind: Jesus is no master to him. Judas will go his own way. Jesus was willing, but Judas’ inner posture of pride and rebellion leaves him unclean.
Jesus is willing to wash each one, but we must let him. We must not let pride or embarrassment get in the way. Jesus knows our feet—that they smell and are covered in muck. He knows they are ticklish and prone to kick and to run.
But there is one way to communion with him: To acknowledge our stink, lay aside our pride—whatever form it takes—and let Jesus cleanse us of it.
Wherever you are this month, will you let him?
Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; Jesus Wants to Wash Our Feet