On the Corner
A sacrament for an army of salvation
by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief –
The earth is Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas and established it upon the flood.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully
During the final meal Jesus ate with his disciples—commonly referred to as the last supper—he asked them to remember him and gave them two common symbols by which this memory could be triggered. These were the bread—his physical body, and the wine—his blood. These have remained as lasting sacraments within many Christian churches and are celebrated in various ways during communion services.
In the Army we celebrate the sacraments at every meal as we invite Christ to our table.
I believe he also demonstrated what could be considered a third sacrament—something even more powerful that challenges our thoughts and behavior. We could adopt this one on a fairly regular basis.
This is how it happened. He stood, removed his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist and filled a basin with water. He began to perform the duties of a servant as, in turn, he washed his disciples feet.
When it became Peter’s turn he confronted Jesus with the question: “Are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” Peter said. “You shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus looked at him with insight into his impulsiveness and compassion for his character. He recognized Peter’s lack of understanding. In a gentle tone he said to him: “Unless I wash you, you have no part of me.”
Peter’s reply came quickly. “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.”
When Jesus had finished washing the feet of his disciples he said to them:
Now that I, your Lord, have washed your feet you
also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you
an example that you should do as I have done for
John 13:14 (NIV)
Head, hands, and feet
Peter’s impetuous rejection of having his feet washed by Jesus seems based on his view of a status differential between himself and Jesus. His exalted view of the man Jesus caused him to believe that it was wrong for Jesus to assume such a servant role. Understanding came with the recognition that this was not a lesson in cleanliness. He desired, therefore, almost a total immersion. He understood where his sin resided—head, hands and feet.
When we accept Jesus as Lord we make that belief evident in our actions—by what we do. God loves moving feet—feet that bring us into proximity with the hurting and helpless, the deceitful and devious, those who misunderstand and those misunderstood. We move our feet toward them and reveal the love, grace and humility of a foot-washing Christ.
The mind dictates the labels we use to identify for ourselves what we feel. Our feelings determine the direction our feet take us in life. It allows us choice—a choice between negatively judging someone on the basis of their perceived sinfulness or, conversely, showering our love and grace upon them.
Clean hands have long been a metaphor for an honest and trustworthy life. Hands can get us into trouble or they can lift someone from despair to hope. They can work to deliver peace or trigger rage and revenge.
We deliver Christian love with clean hands and a pure heart—motivated by a mind focused by a mature faith on the essential truism that love reveals itself in altruism—a human manifestation of a belief inspired by the example of Jesus.
Altruists disavow the need for self-gain as the impetus of action. They reject the need for personal “credit” for actions. They ignore status as an important criterion of worth.
One’s relationship with God is not measured by a point system. We don’t need to keep score. He doesn’t. The greatest must be the least among us.
A new commandment
As he spoke with his disciples he said:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you,
so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my
disciples, if you love one another.
As the new life of springtime decorates the hillsides and valleys, the highways and byways of God’s sweet earth, let us take Christ’s Passover message and affirm that newness of life within us—a life of humility, of love and grace.