by Bekkah Fulmer
April 1st was Maundy Thursday, a day that commemorates the Washing of the Feet and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, as described in the canonical gospels.
I taught high school classes for the first half of the day and taught parenting classes for the second half. The thought of it being Maundy Thursday never crossed my mind.
Being raised Baptist, I didn’t even know it was a thing until a couple of years ago. I got home that night, ate dinner with my fiancé, exchanged details of the day, and went to change out of my work clothes. When I came out of the room, he asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. “May I wash your feet?” I said, “You want to wash my feet?” “Yes.”, he replied. What followed can only be described as a spiritual experience.
He prepared a bowl of water and oil, had a towel draped over his shoulder, and began washing my feet. I’m not an outwardly emotional person, but this moment deeply struck me. No one had ever washed my feet before, nor asked. The initial overriding feeling was that of unworthiness. I wanted to tell him to get up off of his knees and stop. “We’re equal!” was the thought echoing through my mind.
However, as he continued, I started to quiet those thoughts and take in what was happening—an act of service and humility. Then, I began thinking of the passage in the Bible where the Washing of the Feet is recounted. Jesus washed the Apostles’ feet, before the partaking of the Last Supper. I can think of few passages in any historical text that delivers such a powerful message of inclusion. You see, Jesus didn’t just wash feet—the task of the lowliest servant—he washed the feet of those who would soon betray him. He cleaned the feet of Judas, a well-known thief, who for 30 pieces of silver (the price of a slave), promised to deliver Jesus unto the chief priests. He cleaned the feet of Peter, who later that same night, would deny even knowing him. These men were not only invited to Jesus’ table, to break bread with him, but their feet were also washed by him.
Throughout Christianity, especially within churches, there seems to be hyperfocus on the word “sinner” or “sinners.” Thus, sparking a continuous cycle of labeling people and their behaviors, and charting them in order of the most damnable. In reality, though, “sinner” is an unnecessary descriptor, as it simply means human. Likewise, there’s no need to get hung up on different types of “sin” when we’re all merely engaging in behaviors of humanity. In other words, we can’t be so concerned with the state of a person’s soul, that we forget to see them as an image-bearing creation of God.
Just as Jesus did not exclude any of the Apostles from the Washing of the Feet, we are not to exclude anyone from our churches, our tables, and our humble acts of service. Jesus taught inclusivity. He knelt, as servant, to wash the feet he formed, as Creator.
What if instead of turning people away from the table, we saved them a seat? And rather than condemning one another for engaging in human behaviors that differ from our own, we got down on our knees, and said, “May I wash your feet?”