Humility, for Christians, is a difficult thing to maintain. Those who talk about their humility are by definition not very humble. The attribute of humility is best when it is practiced, but unfortunately, Christians in the public spotlight are in a tough spot when it comes to demonstrating humbleness.
I am a week late in posting on this excellent Washington Post article on foot-washing and how it relates to being humble. Reporter William Wan portrays in vivid detail the lowly nature of following Jesus’ model in washing feet:
As they prepared for the holy ritual, the churchgoers had all the essential items: latex gloves, nail clippers, chlorine and antibacterial soap. The only things missing were the feet, and soon enough they poured into the church by the dozen.
Many were callused and cracked from cold nights spent on the streets. Some were sore and infected. What they needed was some old-school — we’re talking centuries here — Christian doctrine in action. So volunteers at Centenary United Methodist Church in Richmond got down on their knees and scrubbed.
The practice of foot-washing, rooted in the biblical account of what Jesus did for his disciples, has ebbed and flowed throughout church history, abandoned at various times for reasons of dogma or embarrassment. But in recent years it has grown in popularity as an act of submission, both at Easter season services and in many other settings.
The article, as part of the Post‘s monthly On Faith feature, took me back to an honors class I took in college called “Hands-on Spirituality.” In it we discussed and practiced everything from yoga to meditation to totai chi.
While I learned little in the class, largely because I was too busy with the school newspaper and other duties, I did appreciate it. The thing I remember most vividly was the one week we devoted to an exclusively Christian practice, which was foot-washing. Simply put, washing a classmate’s feet was probably the most humbling school-related action of my four years in college. All in all the experience was quite moving spiritually.
A brief history on why the foot-washing rite has gone in and out of style among Christians is explained in the article. The reporter makes a very good case, by nailing the spiritual significance of the practice, that this is something that should be practiced more often by followers of Christ.