Category Archives: Humility

Laying Privilege Aside


1312 feet washed

“Jesus Washing Peter’s feet.” Ford Maddox Brown. 1852-56 Tate Gallery, London

We understand a little what it is like to lay aside a privilege. We use simple words and talk about different subjects with toddlers than adults. When a child asks, “Daddy what do you want for Christmas?” I don’t answer, “New carpet for the family room!” I’m not even surprised my Canadian wife doesn’t care about which BCS bowl game OSU wil get this year.

Another example of how complex it is to mix an adult’s wishes and a child’s, is attempting to choose a game that suits the whole family. The older kids must act “bored” if the game is too childish for their all important teenage dignity. Younger kids won’t play if they know they are going to lose. The adults want everyone to have fun or enjoy a new challenge. Someone always has to set their own wishes aside to make it fun for others.

When I was 10 or 12, I remember a “Crazy 8’s” card game at my grandmother’s house over the Thanksgiving holiday. Her table was crowded and we had to use a double deck for there to be enough cards to deal everyone in. I was seated next to the one uncle who never gave any quarter in a card game. He competed to win and in other games like uker that only the adults played he nearly always did. The first hand I drew only had Ace’s, King’s, 2’s and 8’s. Every time it was my turn to play my uncle either had to draw more cards or miss his turn. When I laid down my last card he was left with a ton of points sending him over the limit in just one hand. With a red face he slammed down his hand on the table and quit. We didn’t have the same idea of fun!

We can barely imagine what Jesus laid aside to live with us. Jesus laid heaven aside where angels were his servants who would immediately obey his every order. Instead he chose to sleep on a floor, walk on dusty roads in sandals and put up with accusations and criticisms that weren’t remotely fair. He told his disciples t the moment of His capture that at any moment a legion of angels was still available to answer his command. Jesus refused things even the most privileged among us, like Presidents or billionaires, never dream of.

In that unforgettable moment in an upstairs room before the Passover meal, Jesus even set aside his rights as his disciple’s rabbi coming as a guest to the meal they had prepared. He wrapped a towel around his waist; knelt before each disciple; removed their sandals; then washed and dried their travel soiled feet. Right up until he reached Peter a stunned, guilty silence seems to have settled over the room. Peter finally broke the silence with his typical over-the-top comment, “wash my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus used this teachable moment to offer a blessing and a command about servanthood. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. … you will be blessed if you do them.”