Pretty sure this is the worst pollen season in Houston history. I say that every year, but y’all, it’s been going on for 6 weeks now. McLeod worked so hard the other day cleaning the outdoor furniture. Didn’t last long. I broke down and washed my car. As of last night, it’s got a light dusting once again. A teenager looking for work came by yesterday and said, “I’m power-washing for some of your neighbors, and…your…porch…” He just let the ugly yellow truth hang there.
Today, though, the rain is washing some of it away, and I’m hopeful that the pollination frenzy will die down soon. Of course, even then, we’ll always have a certain amount of dirt, dust, and yes, pollen to clean up if we don’t want things to get completely dingy around here.
Jesus said something similar about how spiritual dirt and grime tend to accumulate, too. So if you’re itching (or sneezing?) through a time of spiritual dustiness, take a moment to hear what he had to say.
Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gathered His closest followers to celebrate the Jewish Passover meal. During the feast He gave them a powerful object lesson. John, one of those disciples in attendance, records it like this:
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:3-5
The disciples must have been stunned. Jesus, their master teacher, was doing the menial work of a servant, demonstrating to them that just as He humbled himself to serve others, so they were to serve each other as well. The disciple Peter was not about to let Jesus clean his dirty feet, though, and tried to stop Him. The Lord replied, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me,” to which Peter, in typical Impulsive Pete fashion, replied, “Wash all of me!”
But Jesus reassured him that he was already clean from his daily bath and only his feet need attention—a statement He echoed later in the evening in a word play on “clean” and “pruned” that showed the deeper spiritual implications: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me [the true vine], and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:3-4
Jesus wanted his followers (including us) to know that because of their relationship to Him, they were already declared acceptable to the Father. They were spiritually clean and presentable because of Christ, and they would be empowered to go do God-glorifying works if they continued in communion with Him. But they would still need the “dirt” washed off that comes from daily living. Jesus concluded his foot-washing demonstration by saying, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15) A big part of serving one another just as Christ served would be to help each other get their “feet cleaned” from those inevitable sins, failures, hurts, and missteps that happen.
I imagine John had that whole evening in mind many years later when he wrote this in his letter to the churches:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:7-9
Just like the disciples, those of us who are in Christ, need to be part of the kind of “fellowship with one another” that John talks about. I’m deceiving myself if I think I don’t need others to help me deal with the daily dirt that accumulates in my life—bitterness, unforgiveness, arrogance, self-indulgence. The Holy Spirit is faithful to bring to mind areas where I need to repent so that dirt can be washed away, but He often does it in the context of Christian community where I can both partake in and provide the spiritual “foot-washing” that happens when we are open about our failures and God’s grace to forgive.
In these few weeks leading up to Easter, let’s take an honest look at whether foot-washing is happening in our lives. Are you in a community where you feel freedom to share your struggles, and then, does that community look to Jesus together for answers? If not, maybe it’s time to ask God to show you a solid, Bible-studying small group that, first and foremost, believes Jesus is the one who puts people right with God but then also supports each another with humility and honesty in the day-to-day stuff of life. That’s how we grow and flourish in our faith, and how we make sure others do, too.