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  • Shawn Thornton

Dirty Feet and Other “Stuff”

Friday - August 28th Scripture to Read for Today's Devotional: John 13:1-11

Today's Selection from our Sermon on the Mount Reading Plan: Matthew 7:21-29

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Galatians 5:13


During two summers of my college days, I served as the Director of Children's Ministries at Gull Lake Bible Conference in Gull Lake, Michigan. While the kids' parents listened to world-renowned and popular pastors and Bible teachers, they listened to a teaching partner and me. We tried to make our time with the kids fun and share solid, creative Bible lessons. An old theologian once told me, if you can engagingly communicate God's Word with kids early in your pastoral ministry, you can teach God's Word to any age group. The older I get, the more I think he was right.

On one particular day, I wanted to teach our elementary age children the unparalleled humility Jesus displayed when He washed the disciples' feet in the Upper Room. I decided to use my beach towel and a bowl of water to clean one of a little boy's feet from one of the staff families. Washing little Jon's grimy and gross feet in front of the kids with my own towel would help the other children understand the kind of humility God calls us to as we seek to live and love like Jesus.

As I started teaching, I was deeply into my lesson. I had the passion. I had the kids rapt attention. After I brought little Jon upfront, his five-year-old grin spread ear to ear. As I suspected, as I took off his shoes and socks, sand, dirt, and all kinds of stuff, both fell off and stuck to Jon's feet. Perfect. I thought. Reading through the story found in the first eleven verses of the Gospel of John, I emphasized God's Son stooped down to wash the feet of His followers who were not always loyal or lovable.

The 75 to 100 children spread throughout the little children's chapel at the conference center watched from the edge of their seats. As I was just about to turn and begin the demonstration, there was a sneeze behind me. All the children laughed. Their laugh was disruptive. I did not look back. There was no way I wanted to validate whatever was happening. It was important to me that I show these kids what it means to be a person in authority and be willing to bend down in humility to serve someone else by meeting a practical need. This was critical for the message that night. No sneeze would stop me from showing these kids what humility like Jesus looked like in real life.

But, another sneeze came. The kids were beyond hysterical. I looked back. There was little 5-year-old, brown-eyed Jon still smiling from ear to ear but with his arms outstretched holding up what I can only describe as "stuff" strung between his hands. No, not now. Not this. That was my thought. How will I show these kids the kind of humility Jesus demonstrated the night before His crucifixion?

"Amy!" I yelled in frustration. Amy was Jon's big, nine-year-old sister. "Get some paper towels from the bathroom and clean your brother up so I can teach this lesson!" I hope I added a please to that.

Yep, then it hit me. Instead of stopping and using my towel and water basin to clean up the little boy, I stood there in my pride and position. I asked someone else to serve him. In the flash of a moment full of opportunity to help practically, I asked someone else to do what Jesus would have done.

The lesson I learned that day will stay with me until the moment I step into the presence of Jesus. Serving others doesn't just happen when you can plan for it and intentionally do it. Serving others should occur as a natural, gut reaction to the need we see in someone else's life. The more we live and love like Jesus, the more natural serving others will be.

The Apostle Paul challenged the church in Galatia regarding our call to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ selflessly. One of the "One Another" commands of the New Testament is to "serve one another." It is linked to the command to "submit to one another." Paul simply said, "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love."

I hope that if I were in the same teaching situation today with little Jon ready as my living object lesson, I would use my towel and that basin rather than send his sister for towels and tell her to clean him up. All of us, as we walk with Jesus, will become more like Him. Our humility and compassion will grow. But, when an opportunity comes, we still need to choose to serve rather than ignore or wait for others to act.

Look around as you go through your day today. Who are the people around you? What are their needs? How can you help and serve them? Ask God to make you aware of needs and opportunities to serve others today.

To live and love like Jesus means to set aside your pride and position to serve others!

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