Choosing to be a servant

February 10, 2017 at 6:00 AM

A woman from Moundou, Chad, washes the hands of guests before the meal is served. It's common practice in Africa.         (Photo by Dan Breen)

Choosing to be a servant

By Dan Breen

If you close your eyes and let your mind drift you probably can hear your mother’s familiar voice calling from the kitchen, “Time to wash up for dinner.” House rules always required you to scrub the day’s grub and grime off your hands and face before indulging in mom’s dish-of-the-day.

There’s a similar expectation that happens in many parts of Africa, but it has a little twist.

Water cleanliness is questionable in many parts in Africa, and depending on your location, running water may not be accessible at all. So instead of bringing yourself to the sink, they bring the sink to you.

It’s a wonderful — if not somewhat humbling — experience to participate in and witness. One member of the household (often a female, I’ve noted), is given the task of washing the guests’ hands. The person chosen to serve is equipped with a kettle of clean water, soap and a large basin to catch the dirty water as it rinses off the dinner guests’ hands.

The guests lather up their hands with the soap and the servant-washer then pours the clean water over them. He or she then moves on to the next person. It’s rinse and repeat until all the guests’ hands are clean.

It makes me think about what it must have been like for Jesus to humble himself and wash his disciples’ feet. Here you have the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Lord of the Universe, bending down nearly naked to scrub the dust off the calloused feet of Peter, James, John and their cronies — a group which also included a man named Judas who would betray Jesus just a few hours later.

Jesus was pretty clear why he did it in John 13:14-15: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

I wonder how many “feet” I’ve washed today? Not physical feet, but feet in a metaphorical sense. How many times today have I bent my knee before my brothers in need? Once or twice, maybe —  but more likely not at all.

Not one of us is greater than another on this earth. We’re all dirtied with the sinful grub and grime that’s plagued mankind since the Fall. Isn’t it time we humble ourselves, wash off our pride and take our rightful position as servants of the Most High? Let’s be a people who resolve to seek servant opportunities today.

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