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Washing Feet Right Where You Are

2010 June 1

All my life I’ve read in the Bible about serving one another, examples like that of Jesus washing the apostles’ feet and the Good Samaritan helping someone hurt by the side of the road.  I knew as a Christian that I was supposed to serve, but inwardly I thought: We don’t wash people’s feet anymore, and if I ever run across someone hurt, I will be sure to stop and help, or at least call 911. Yet, honestly, I didn’t think I would ever come into direct contact with a situation like this.

A few years ago I worked in Downtown Denver.  I took the bus into town and it dropped me off a few blocks from my office.  Every day, as I walked to work, I saw a homeless man digging through trash cans looking for food.  He wasn’t a panhandler, just a man who lived on that street carrying everything he owned on his back.  On cold days I would see him huddled up in front of the exhaust vent for our building trying to stay warm.  Most of the time, I tried to avoid him; almost as if homelessness was some kind of contagious disease.

One morning I got off the bus behind a young woman who quickly walked up the street and passed the homeless man.  Suddenly she stopped, paused for a second, and turned back.  She reached into her lunch bag, grabbed her sandwich, and handed it to the man digging in the trash.  I don’t think he even said thank you, but you could see he was grateful.  I was stunned–and humbled.  Why had it never occurred to me to help this poor man?  When the test came I was the Pharisee who passed on the other side of the road while she was the Samaritan.

Now I don’t know if this woman was a Christian, but her actions reminded me of the passage in Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV) about the Lord returning and separating the righteous from the unrighteous.

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

This woman reminded me that there are people who need help all around us and that serving them is serving Jesus.   Sometimes serving begins simply with seeing—sometimes right where we’re walking every day.

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