Sacrificial Love

The purest form of love is self-sacrificing love.
The love of Christ is displayed in His incredible act of reaching down to the lowest level, doing the humblest of tasks, and taking care of the simplest need. So, how do we model Christ's example of love in our lives?

In John 13:14, Jesus says, "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."

In verse 13, He begins with the question, "Do you understand what I have done to you?"

He set the example and gave us a clear directive. But I believe this is much more than a command to literally wash one another's feet.

It's a ministry of forgiveness. When we look at the example of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, His actions foreshadow the cross. The deeper meaning here is there is no place in His fellowship for people who have not been washed through His atoning death. [1]

There is a parallel between Jesus washing His disciples' feet and 1 John 1:7, which states, "The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."

We are forgiven.

In Ephesians 4:32, Paul commands us to "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

Just as Christ extends forgiveness to us when we ask for it, we're to extend that same forgiveness from God through Christ to those who have wronged us. When we forgive them, we're symbolically washing their feet. It's such a tragedy when believers don't forgive one another!

When we share the Word of God with one another, we wash off the filth of this world. If a brother or sister in Christ has fallen into sin, we're to speak God's Word into their lives.

Paul instructs us in Galatians 6:1, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."

One of the most effective ways to restore a sinning brother or sister in Christ is to use God's Word. But maybe they're not stuck in some particular sin. Maybe they're dirty simply because they're walking in this dirty world. Lifting up your forever family with scripture verses that God has used in your life can also be a source of cleansing.

Even though sharing God's Word can bring cleansing, we must be careful to test the temperature of the water. There are times we're too harsh. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 4:21, "What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

We are to restore one another in a spirit of gentleness.

It's refreshing to have your feet washed. In 1 Corinthians 16 Paul mentions three men who spent time with him and refreshed his spirit. In Philemon 1:7, Paul says the church meeting in their home had been refreshed through him.

Are you ever around a fellow believer who makes you feel refreshed? Their relationship with the Lord almost feels contagious. In a way, you're being washed simply by being around them. That's what the Christian life should be like.

So, washing one another's feet is forgiving one another, sharing God's Word, and living life together. None of this is easy. What was the condition of the disciples' feet when Jesus knelt down to wash them? They'd been walking all day on dirty, dusty, waste-filled roads in the heat. They're dirty. They smell. It's unpleasant. It's not easy. But we are to humbly serve one another in ways that are menial, unpleasant, "beneath us."

Further, we shouldn't be outwardly obedient while grumbling under our breath. We should serve one another cheerfully and thankfully, out of love for Christ, who gave Himself on the cross for us. It's all about our mindset and motivation

There are going to be times when we don't receive the appreciation we deserve. Jesus washed Judas's feet, but Judas betrayed Him. Jesus washed Peter's feet, but Peter denied Him three times that night. Jesus washed Thomas's feet, but he doubted the resurrection. Jesus washed the remaining disciples' feet, but they deserted Him and ran away after He was arrested. When we serve, we don't do it for glory, gratitude, or appreciation. We do it for Christ.

Another way we can wash one another's feet is by building close relationships. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we're forever family. We'll be spending eternity with each other. Get to know "your roommates." Building close relationships with one another requires uncomfortable closeness. Washing someone's feet isn't a comfortable act. It's a willingness to be vulnerable, showing someone else just how dirty our feet really are.

Don't know where to start? By participating in a Bible-believing church, we can build authentic relationships. We can ask God to help us develop close relationships, relationships that allow us to wash one another's feet.

In John 13:17, Jesus says, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" (emphasis mine).

It's not enough to find out someone's hurting and just say, "I'll pray for you." We've got to get our hands dirty and try to help. We must do it gently—not with boiling water. But we must do it! We aren't to judge or condemn them. Instead, we are to offer to share some encouraging passages from God's Word that may be of comfort.

Remember, washing one another's feet is forgiving one another, sharing God's Word with one another, and living life together. We must become humble servants of Christ and build close relationships with one another.

Because Jesus has cleansed us of our sins through His death on the cross, we are to follow His example, to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ, to wash their feet.

[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 613