Learning the modern equivalent of washing one another’s feet

Written by A. A. Adourian

As I was running errands one Saturday afternoon around Easter, I turned on the radio. The speakers were in the middle of a conversation about Jesus taking off his robe—symbolizing the setting aside of His power as Lord—and picking up a towel to wash the disciples’ feet.

I almost hit my brakes, despite the green light ahead of me. Jesus set aside His power.

This detail from John 13:4 caused me to wonder, What does foot washing look like today? As I wondered, I felt God shining His light on my uneasiness because I had been wrestling with a competitive spirit.

To maintain my inner peace, my practice (going back to when I was a teenager) was to focus on competing with myself instead of anyone else. Over the years, I learned that by seeking to be better than myself and running to God, God would speak through His Word, bring to mind a past experience, or use something else to help me connect the dots to uncover what was really troubling me.

Competing with myself was about being honest before God and asking Him to guide me toward loving my neighbours. So, whenever I felt competitive with anyone or felt anyone competing with me, my goal was to turn that competition into a desire to collaborate and learn from the situation.

As I listened to the radio that Saturday, I thought of a volunteer project I had recently been asked to join. The group was new to me. The more we met, the more I began to sense competitiveness with the other volunteers, causing me to question their motives and intent.

What prompted this spirit of competition? Did I feel I had to compete with other committee members for some reason?

Not really. I knew the committee consisted of people with different experiences and expertise. But when opportunities were given to some and not others—opportunities that had previously been open to all—I began to sense unfairness (both toward myself and others). What was being said and what was being done were not aligned.

My attitude toward the work of the committee, and the people on it, began to change, and not entirely for the better.

I don’t normally run errands on Saturday afternoons, nor do I listen to that particular radio station at that time. But as I listened, the question filled my mind: What does foot washing look like today?

The answer I felt God giving me was, Jesus set aside His power. So can you.

Did I not know Jesus’ death had already given me victory? Instead of being on guard against competition, I was allowing assumptions to divide me from others, paving the way for a potential negative impact on my witness.

I came prepared to the next volunteer meeting. Jesus set aside His power. I could too. I waited to speak and chose to express encouragement, or echo my support, for what others were doing well. I didn’t compete; I helped. I began to pray more frequently for all committee members to be successful and for God’s favour in my interactions with them.

What could it look like if we all set aside our power as Jesus did? For me, the more I wrestled with God, the more He helped me see what really mattered. I felt more at peace. Even in situations where I would have previously been hurt by words or actions during a meeting, I wasn’t bothered. 

Now the image of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet has new meaning for me. It represents the attitude of a servant who puts God first in every meeting, every conversation, and every action. It eliminates entitlement.

A servant who embraces foot washing sits at Jesus’ feet—open before Him and listening for His voice. Foot washing reminds me that God is enough. I can wash feet by showing His love to others, even at the expense of my power, and praying He will bless them.