“You also should wash one another's feet”
I grew up in a church which believed that Jesus command to wash feet does not apply to modern day believers. And to be perfectly honest I am very comfortable with that interpretation of scripture. Foot washing was a customer of the times that had a very practical purpose. When everyone wore sandals with no socks, feet would get very dusty and a good foot washing kept the house clean and the feet comfortable.
Jesus didn’t mention it, but scratching someone else’s back might fit in the same category. When God designed the human body He made the arms, hands and fingers capable of ministering to every part of the human body except the back. There is a fairly large part of my back that I cannot touch without the aid of a brush with a long handle. Just so you know I’m not speaking about something out of purely intellectual knowledge, I have such a brush hanging just a few feet away from me right now. And frankly, just mentioning it makes my back itch a little! (I took care of that – now where was I?) I can wash my own feet, but I can’t scratch my own back without help.
I do remember as a very small boy being limber enough to put my big toe in my mouth. But as I have grown older, much older, even washing my own feet has become difficult. So is the foot washing Jesus told us to practice simply ministering to each other or is it something else? If it is simply ministering to each other, then there are thousands of ways to wash each other’s feet. Of course it is good to reach out to the needs of others and do for them what they can’t do for themselves.
My personal view of what Jesus was talking about when He encouraged us to wash each other’s feet is simple. I think Jesus was telling us to help each other wash off the dirt of the road in our spiritual lives. As I live and work in “Babylon” I hear and see things every day that are not pure and righteous and holy. The road I walk is very dusty and some of it sticks to my feet. Even as I consciously attempt to be God’s instrument in the world around me my feet are becoming unclean because of the road I walk. But when I return home my wife quickly helps me re-focus on the Lord and she spiritually washes my feet! I have several close brothers who regularly do the same thing. And of course it is my job to do the same for them.
Wouldn’t it be better just to stay inside and never walk on the dusty roads? Then I would never need my feet washed. The problem with that is this: If you never wash your feet, they will begin to stink! Every ten year old boy enjoys “stinky feet” humor.
So is the foot washing command of Jesus literal or symbolic? I believe it is quite literal. My responsibility is to wash the world off of you when you come in from the day. Your responsibility as my brother is to do the same for me.