Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! According to a recent report, “Americans check their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts a staggering 17 times a day, meaning at least once every waking hour, if not more.” Most of the activity that takes place on these platforms is one form or another of self-promotion. All the photos, posts, reposts, status updates, selfies, resumes, and tweets—why do we post them if not to garner looks, likes, comments, followers, and even friends? On social media—where more and more of our lives are being lived—we are wittingly (or unwittingly) continually comparing ourselves to others (envy) and trying to make ourselves look better than the competition (boasting). “Humility is out,” writes CNET’s Emily Dreyfuss. “Self-advocacy is in.”
Self-promotion isn’t anything new. Ever since the Fall (Genesis 3
), mankind has had a propensity to boast. In Genesis 4
, we have the first boast recorded in the Bible: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (Gen. 4:23-24
It’s not just the “bad guys” of the Bible who are guilty of pride and its many sub-sins, boasting being but one of them. The disciples of Jesus are guilty of it too. In John 13
, we read the story of Jesus and his disciples at his last supper. It’s a Thursday night—the feast of Passover—and people are reclining at the table. But nobody is eating… not yet, at least because nobody’s feet have been washed. In the1st century Palestine, people didn’t have nicely paved sidewalks and underground sewage like you, and I enjoy today. The streets were quite literally covered in crap. To make matters worse, footwear options in Jesus’ day were slim—your choices were limited to sandals and...sandals. Sandals plus sewage equals squishy toes. And if those feet aren’t washed before dinner, well, you can see where this is going. According to Luke’s account of that night’s events, a fight broke out around dinnertime. The disciples were arguing over who was the greatest and who was the least. We don’t have to guess what sparked the conflagration. Foot-washing was a humble job reserved for the lowliest of servants. None of the disciples were willing to step up, or in this case, to get low: “Heck no, I’m not touching your feet! I’m not your servant! I’m not your slave. I’m Jesus’ favorite disciple. Wash your feet? No way! You wash mine! Etc.”
If the disciples' thought of washing one another’s feet was insulting, the idea of Jesus doing it was unthinkable. But that is precisely what Jesus did. Jesus—the only one who had every reason to boast—didn’t. Instead, Jesus laid aside his outer garment, grabbed a towel, and tied it around his waste. He poured some water into a basin. Then, half naked and on his hands and feet, Jesus inched towards the first disciple. He took the disciples’ foot into his hands and gently dipped it into the cold, clean water. He massaged away the filth and grime from his foot and patted it dry with the towel tied around his waist. Jesus did this to one foot and then another, all the way down the line, twenty-four feet in all.
Love doesn’t envy or boast. It is humble. It is sacrificial. It serves. What kind of lover are you? Here are some diagnostic questions: Do you think some jobs or chores are beneath you (e.g., “I don’t do the dishes” or “I don’t change diapers”)? Who wins all the arguments in your house? How often do you admit wrongdoing to your wife and/or kids and ask for their forgiveness? When’s the last time you asked anybody for help?
I take it as axiomatic that we will only love as well as we believe we’ve been loved. To love the way Jesus loves, we must, like Peter, swallow our pride and allow Jesus to wash our feet. When we see the depths Jesus is willing to serve us, perhaps we can do likewise. Jesus certainly expects that we will.Scripture References: