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We believe that Jesus Christ calls us to
serve one another in love as he did. Rather than seeking to lord it over
others, we are called to follow the example of our Lord, who chose the
role of a servant by washing his disciples' feet.
his death, Jesus stooped to wash the disciples' feet and told them, "So
if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to
wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also
should do as I have done to you."1
In this act, Jesus showed humility and servanthood, even laying down his
life for those he loved. In washing the disciples' feet, Jesus acted out
a parable of his life unto death for them, and of the way his disciples
are called to live in the world.
Believers who wash each other's feet show that they share in the body
of Christ.2 They
thus acknowledge their frequent need of cleansing, renew their willingness
to let go of pride and worldly power, and offer their lives in humble
service and sacrificial love.3
Foot washing was common in first-century Palestine, where people
wore sandals to walk the dusty roads. Normally, people washed their
own feet. Occasionally a disciple would wash the feet of a teacher
as an act of extraordinary devotion (see John 12:1-8). No one would
have expected Jesus, the master, to wash his disciples' feet.
John 13:1-30 recounts Jesus' washing his disciples' feet. The act
is followed by a commentary (13:31-17:26), which explains what it
meant for Jesus to love his own who were in the world unto the end
(13:1), even those who would betray or deny him. His love reached
all the way to laying down his life for them (15:13). He laid aside
the privileges of power, although "the Father had given all things
into his hands" (13:3). He showed the true power that comes through
servanthood: "He humbled himself and became obedient to the point
of death-- even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted
him" (Phillipians 2:8-9).
Those who follow Jesus are likewise called to let go of privilege
and pride in order to love others more fully, even those who are hard
to love. By this life of love, they show that they are cleansed and
a part of Christ (John 13:8-10). Washing one another's feet is a way
of expressing this commitment to follow Jesus in powerful, humble
Among our congregations, some practice foot washing, while others
have discontinued the practice or have never observed it. Congregations
are encouraged to practice foot washing when it is a meaningful symbol
of service and love for each other. "Washing the feet of the saints"
(1 Timothy 5:10) is one way of representing Christ to each other in
acts of hospitality, service, and love.
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- John 13:14-15.
- John 13:8.
- Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 9:30-37; Luke 22:25-27.