Washing Feet in an Angry World

Are you as tired as I am of all the talk?

It’s as if the air is peppered with speech bubbles loaded with expletives, punctuation marks, angry statements, and words of complaint, argument, indignation, or offense.

They pounce at us from the lunchroom at work to the car radio, from the television at night to social media by day. We receive emails, listen to sermons, and endure pronouncements from zealous family members or friends declaring positions and prophecies.

It’s as if we’ve slung backpacks over our souls and every word is another rock added to our burden.

And we add to the noise, don’t we? We’re not interested in being guilty of remaining silent when we should speak. Or of appearing

to agree, by not stating that we don’t. We aren’t ashamed of Christ, so even the shyest among us tries to take a stand, at least with words, if not with measurable action.

We’ve all hit the opinion highway at the same time, trying to evacuate before some terrible storm of racism, terrorism, or mass atheism strikes, but now the airways have become a parking lot and we’re just left honking our verbal horns.

Today, God showed me an exit ramp.

Too often, our conversations are about claiming or establishing power. The world would have us believe that to have an impact on others, to incite change, to be heard, we must have some measure of power.

So, we seek power in conversations by convincing, persuading, debating, proclaiming, boasting, or shaming. Even when our intent is love, we foolishly follow the world’s mapquest, imagining it’s a path that leads to God’s intended result.

We use our words the way the world does. They become clubs, weapons, pulpits, prods, and mazes – all intended to bring people to our way of thinking. This is not the way of Christ.

Paul states clearly, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (I Corinthians 4:20) The good news is, it’s not a power we must acquire, but one that is ours in Christ.

We do not have to seek or establish power because we are children of the Most High God. Power is already our birthright. God now watches to see how we will use this power to serve others.

The apostle John wrote this about our Lord, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:3-5

Before one of the hardest conversations of His life, in the last hours Jesus would have with His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion, the time when He must have wanted to impart words that would remain with them all, He served them.

Jesus took the role of a servant and told us that we should do the same. “How can I serve others today with my words?” This is our exit ramp out of the verbal traffic jam of our times.

I don’t ask this question often enough about my words. I know I’ll be held accountable for every word I speak and I try to weigh words carefully, but now I’m going to begin to ask, “Who do my words serve?” with every sentence.

Not, “How can I convince this person to see things my way.” Not, “What words can I find to prove my point?” Not, “Which words will work best to get this person to see the light?”

Instead, “What words will serve this person best in this moment?” “How can I use words to serve these people in my workplace or my home?” “As a servant of God, following in the footsteps of Jesus, how can I serve a hurting world using words?”

I am already breathing easier. I can already feel the burden lift. The clamor is fading and I can hear the words Jesus clearer than I could yesterday.

We aren’t called to prove to people that we are right. We’re called to lovingly serve others in His name.

Before we speak today, before we share something on social media, before we join in the debate at the lunch table, let’s remember where we came from, whose we are, and where we’re going. Then, let’s consider how we can serve the others in our conversation with our words.

How can our words serve others today? That’s the story I want to explore. How about you?

Let me know how it goes.

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    The Conversation

  1. Great word! Thanks.

  2. Joyce says:

    This is always such a struggle for me. I was never vocal when I was young, despite being on the debate team for several years in high school. It has only been within the past 10 – 12 years that I’ve really “blossomed”. Having a genetically disposed sarcastic bent I know that too many times I’ve wielded a hammer when a Nerf ball would have been better suited. But over the past few months I’ve really felt God firmly nudging me to watch the way I engage on controversial topics of the day. It has been hard to watch my “tongue” and I fail so often. I’m learning to be more open to hearing the other side of the story. It doesn’t necessarily mean I change my mind, though I have at times, but despite my initial reaction to argue I’m doing a little bit more research to find out what the larger picture is. I find myself, often, even telling those I would normally link arms with “hey, I think we’re missing the point here” or “just because we don’t like a certain point of view or politician or public figure doesn’t mean we engage in spreading half truths, rumors, and outright lies”. I hope I do a little better each day, but it’s only by God’s grace which gently nudges me rather the slamming me with the same two-by-four I’ve used on others.

  3. I am (not surprisingly) reminded of Ephesians 4:29, making sure we build each other up with our words.
    This is a great line: “the airways have become a parking lot and we’re just left honking our verbal horns.” That’s often how I feel when I put something out there.