This past week, both the Sunday sermon and the Wednesday Lenten study, my church focused on the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. After sharing a meal with the disciples, Jesus wraps a towel around his waist, rolls up his sleeves and begins doing a task that is considered job for servants. When he comes to Peter, Peter protests and says, “No, Jesus, you are not washing my feet!” When I hear Peter’s reaction, I can relate. How could, of all people, Jesus wash my feet?
Jesus’ response is that he is washing their feet so that they would go do likewise with one another. Many interpret this passage as Jesus’ call to be a “servant leader,” that is, to do things others will not do, or to be sacrificial. While all these are great traits in a leader, I think Jesus was telling the disciples that they are no better than the person who would usually wash their feet. If Jesus was washing feet, then the disciples should too, and this means that they are not above the servants who are usually relegated to these roles.
Jesus' entire ministry demonstrated his commitment to make sure all people were treated with dignity and respect. This last act, before his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, was once again his way of emphasizing to his disciples that indeed, they are no better than anyone else. That they were somehow not above washing someone’s feet because he was doing it too.
When we think about the roles people play today in our daily lives, many people are relegated to work that is disregarded and not seen as dignified work. We, as followers of Christ, have to remember that vocation, ministry and career cannot only be defined by tasks that we do each day. We must work towards creating a world where a janitor is well respected and honored for their work as much as the CEO of the company.
It is easy to sit at a restaurant and be engrossed in our meal and our conversations to not notice the people who are serving and helping us enjoy our experience. It is easy to go through the grocery store and go through the checkout line and not think twice about the cashier who is ringing you up except that he is a part of your shopping process.
This week, I encourage us to be intentional about how we treat one another, especially those people who are in our lives daily we often forget to pay much attention to. Remember that our lives are not any more important than theirs, our time is not more important than theirs, and most importantly, their humanity, and dignity should not be defined by the uniform they wear.
Jesus reminded us that we’re not any better than anyone else, especially those who “washing your feet”, basically those make your life run the way you expect.
This year, each Friday during Lent, IWJ's Organizing Director, Sung Yeon Choi-Morrow, will share reflections based on her pastoral education and experiences in the field helping to move the work for worker justice and a fair economy.