If you attend any Bible teaching church, you are likely to hear the story of John 13 mentioned at least once a year. It seems to be the ‘go-to’ story for many pastors and teachers when there is some ministry that needs a ‘foot-washer’…someone who is willing to do the ordinary tasks to express their love for others.
A long time ago, I had a friend tell me about one of her friends whose boyfriend proposed to her by taking her to a beautiful place and reading her the foot washing story in John. Then he pulled out the ole basin and towel trick. Yep. You guessed it. He washed her feet as he proposed to her .What young gal could say no to that? At the time I was single and thought that was the sweetest story in the world …. Now about 15 years later and with 10 plus years of marriage behind me the ornery side of me remembers that friend’s story and wonders if that star-crossed lover is still cleaning out his wife’s toe jam and serving her needs as he promised on that moonlit night? I’m sure it was a much more difficult promise to keep than he ever dreamed when he was a naïve young twenty-something.
I love the applications of John 13:1-17. Let me direct you again to Dr. Os…not Oprah’s doc…but Oswald Chambers. I like to call him ‘Dr. Os’ because more than once I have come away from my time reading his writings feeling like I have been to a heart doctor and received a good report…hopeful and healed. If you don’t read his devotion book ‘My Utmost For His Highest’ each day you are missing out. Stick a copy in your car and it will give you something to do in your child’s carpool line other than watching the clock or passing the time surfing the internet…read what Dr. Os has to say about this passage here.
To me the most challenging verses in John chapter 13 come later in the chapter…after we realize that Jesus has just washed the feet of Judas, who has already betrayed him in his heart.
John 13:34-35 (NIV)
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
When I was a teenager, I used to be a bit jealous of some Christians who had amazing personal testimonies to share. (naïve jealousy huh?) You know the kind of life story that can bring everyone listening to tears as they hear of how God had changed their life….a prostitute who became pure when she gave her life to Jesus…the drug dealer who turned from a life of darkness when he found freedom in Christ…the abusive spouse whose marriage was saved when Jesus transformed his heart.
Well…I wish God would have whispered in my ear as a teenager…”oh you just wait my child. Your story is ahead of you. Enjoy your glossy life while you can!”
Honestly as a child and teenager, I found it easy to follow Christ. I saw some of my friends living in families where Christ was not the center and I thanked my Heavenly Father every night that He had placed me in a family that was bound by the love of Jesus.
Though there were challenges along the way, nothing I faced in those years ever challenged me much in my faith. Then came my twenties and my personal testimony became much more interesting of a story…I think if a phrase could sum up the third decade of my life it would be ‘loving in the midst of betrayal.’
In fact this blog began by my telling one of the stories of betrayal… my blogs from Nov/Dec of 2009 retrace that story of my life.
Two more times in that decade I would be faced with the same challenge of love. Once by a family member and once by someone who claimed to be a friend. Both of these people were followers of Christ. Both I had entrusted my life’s path to. Twice more I would be reminded of how Jesus CHOSE to love the betrayer.
This is not the place to recount those two stories. Some of you reading this walked with me and my sweet hubby through those extremely heart wrenching situations. Honestly, I have only shared the details of those stories when I have come into contact with someone who is walking through a similar situation and I think my story would encourage them.
But I will share with you how I made it through those times and came out on the side of love and not bitterness.
1. I chose not to gossip about the ones who betrayed me. Tough for a woman. I kept my mouth shut unless I was in the presence of someone who I knew God had put in my path to help me. Those VERY few people were people that I knew would encourage me to forgive and love. In my life I have found that gossiping (even if the gossip is true), does the opposite of what I want to happen. I wanted to heal. I wanted to love. I wanted to forgive. Talking to everyone I knew about what was happening in my life, was not going to lead to me to the place I wanted to be…
2. Instead of talking…I meditated on God’s Word.
Psalm 19:14 (NIV) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
This verse became my theme. In fact, when I was forced to be in the presence of the one who had betrayed me I often closed my eyes and repeated this verse over and over in my head.
3. I maintained a steadfast belief in God’s Word and trusted him to give me the words to say or not say and the actions to do or not do. Psalm 119:66 (NLT) I believe in your commands; now teach me good judgment and knowledge.
4. I cried out to God. Yep. I cried a lot! In fact, just thinking about the hurt I went through I am getting a little teary eyed. Why was it important for me to cry? I was honest about my pain. I let God know how unfair it seemed.
Psalm 34:17 (NIV) The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
Psalm 55:17 (NIV)Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.
The healing of my heart in these two situations were not as immediate as was the healing when my wedding was called off just 8 weeks before I was to be married to someone who had lied to me and betrayed me. Instead in the other two situations the healing was a process. In fact, with one of the situations, I have to continue to do the four things I mentioned above because the person who betrayed me was a family member. Because I spend a lot of time with this person I am constantly battling the memories of hurt.
What did Jesus do in John 13? Jesus gave us a ‘new’ commandment. Not a commandment that replaces an old commandment. Instead, the Greek word for new in John 13:35 is a word that means, “fresh, vibrantly new”.
No longer is the challenge to love your neighbors as yourselves….instead we are to love them as JESUS loved them. . . even if they have betrayed us. The result: As we take this kind of love into our relationships and into the lost world, we are proving that Jesus is who He said He is.
My prayer is that you will live out what you believe and allow the Holy Spirit to love everyone in your life with the same kind of love that Jesus had for his friends who betrayed him.