Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Here's another thought, inspired by Trevor Hudson, but from the well-known story of Jesus washing his disciples feet. I was trying to recontextualise the idea for me, here and now. Foot-washing, while a good experience is not part of our culture and doesn't really achieve what Jesus was trying to get us to understand. How in our society do we truly serve others? And it can be silly things like making a cup of tea or doing the dishes. Even those we can sometimes invest with some significance as 'acts of service' to be admired. How do we truly serve in humility?
But I got sidetracked onto thinking - what would have happened at the next passover? Would the disciples have expected Jesus to wash their feet again? Would they scramble to do it? Because the reality is, in our lives today, that if you humble yourself to an act of service one day that is not the end. That will probably be expected of you from then on. Unless you have awesome authority like Jesus did. So we lay ourselves open to be trampled on - or if you resist, you are viewed as ungracious and unwilling to help. Perhaps this is from my perspective as a woman.
But there is a difference between a once-off act of humility and a life of humility. And there is a difference between a humble life and a trampled life. I need to struggle with this a bit!

1 comment:

Steven Jones said...

Hi Jenny

Some interesting food for thought there.

I guess that for me the difficulty of understanding certain acts recorded in Scripture is that while in some cases one can clearly see that a particular act or custom is intended to be repeated (e.g. the Hebrew festivals, baptism, communion), whereas in other cases the mere fact that something is mentioned only once does not necessarily mean that the act should not be repeated.

I've always taken Jesus' act of washing the disciples' feet to be the ultimate example of servanthood. As I mentioned in a previous post, if the Son of God can get down on His knees in the dirt and wash His disciples' stinking feet, the rest of us don't have much of an excuse.

But you raise an interesting question. Would the disciples have had a legitimate expectation of having their feet washed again the following year? And what would their reaction have been if Jesus had (hypotetically) said that the act was a "once-off" intended to teach thyem about servanthood?

And your point about servanthood being abused is equally valid. Anyone who has been involved in giving out food parcels must have experienced the scenario when the church decides to discontinue assistance because of substance abuse, an unwillingness on the part of the person to make any effort to help themselves, or simply a shortage of resources. The response is along the lines of "but you helped me last time", usually accompanied by emotional manipulation designed to make you feel guilty.

At what point does servanthood reach its lmit? Or is it, like forgiveness, something that must be done "seventy times seven"? This is something I have long wrestled with as a Christian, and the dilemma is only likely to become more intense as a minister.

Perhaps this is a discussion that can be thrown open to our fellow bloggers? I would be particularly interested to get the views of people like Dion and Wessel.