Your Greatest Act Of Revenge

by Michael J. Klassen

The occasion began in relative silence. Men gathered at one end of the room while the women gathered at the other. Then we proceeded to separate areas. Although I was the pastor of the congregation, I was a newby to our experience…

The night Jesus was betrayed, he modeled the heart of his message to his closest followers. With only a few hours remaining before their worlds were turned upside-down, Jesus’ words carried greater significance and every measured action would engrave itself on the hearts and minds of his disciples.

So Jesus broke bread with his friends and promised that whenever they followed his example, he would be present. Little did they realize that this promise foreshadowed his impending departure.

Amidst the veiled talk about departures and farewells, a dispute broke out among his disciples. Someday soon, Jesus would judge heaven and earth and install a new world order. Someone would be needed to run his kingdom. And just in case judgment day was about to take effect, the disciples argued about who would be Jesus’ right hand man.

In the midst of the evening, Jesus did the unthinkable. He shed his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin, and sat at his disciples’ feet. The video above offers a moving reenactment of the event. If you have time, I highly recommend you watch it.

Reading the John 13 account from afar can be so sterile, so romantic, so easy…until you’re in the position to actually do it yourself.

Despite the use of shoes, socks, and hose, feet can be so…unsanitary. True confession: people who touch their feet really disgust me. Under ideal conditions, feet can be sexy. But in their everyday life, I want nothing to do with other people’s feet. And during the summer when people wear leather sandals, they can downright stink.

Imagine people’s feet under ancient, Near Eastern conditions. Leather sandals. Dusty roads. Refuse (both animal and human) that had run freely through the streets which assuredly splattered onto them. Disgusting. Repulsive. Nevertheless, without hesitation, Jesus touched…he TOUCHED the grimy feet of his followers and washed them.

John prefaces his account by saying this about Jesus: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Loving his own to the end meant not only dying for them—there’s a sense of romanticism to that—but also serving them by doing what only the lowliest servant would do.

****

Once in our room, we began organizing ourselves into pairs. Suddenly, I felt awkward. No, that’s not the right word. I felt extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable. If I hadn’t been the pastor, I would have looked for a reason to escape.

I scanned the room for a safe person, but before I knew it, someone had chosen me. Of all people, a man who was unhappy with my leadership asked if we could be together. Our congregation was experiencing a bit of conflict, and a group of congregation members didn’t like some of the changes I was enacting. Nevertheless, a man who opposed me chose to wash my feet. The experience was completely disarming.

He invited me to sit in a chair while he grabbed a basin. When he returned, he dropped to his knees to wash my feet. Given the choice, I would have chosen anyone BUT him. God had a sense of humor and a lesson to teach me through the most unlikely person.

The most amazing aspect about Jesus’ experience with his followers is that he chose to wash Judas’ Iscariot’s feet. He served the man who betrayed him.

Just before our congregation’s footwashing service, someone mentioned to me in passing that everyone washes their feet before they arrive. No one likes to sully their hands with other people’s feet. Unfortunately, I wasn’t privy to this information, so my partner unwittingly washed my dirty feet. I arrived at our meeting with the grimiest feet of all.

During the event, people said very little. Washing someone’s feet—and having someone wash yours—is extremely intimate. Hence the silence.

When we finished, the other man and I stood and faced each other. Then he stretched out his arms and hugged me.

While Jesus calls all of us to wash the feet of others, I wonder if he set up this event with the purpose of washing Judas Iscariot’s feet. All of us prefer to serve the people we like, the people we consider safe. But washing the feet of our betrayers, well, that’s a different story. It requires the character of Jesus. You could say it’s our greatest act of revenge toward our enemies.

So Jesus hands you a basin of water. Who is your Judas Iscariot and how can you wash his feet?

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

16 Comments

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16 responses to “Your Greatest Act Of Revenge

  1. elna

    I have had this experience…very humbling…forget about being prepared..the hostess just jumped up with this ‘bright idea’ and grabbed a basin. It would have been nice to have been for a pedicure beforehand!
    According to reflexology your whole life is visible in your feet, and that was the prime thought in my mind.
    Somebody once said that to invite your enemy to dinner is one of the most difficult things because it is such a personal thing to cook for someone, and all the love and care that you have to shower on this person that you don’t really like… I believe that the ‘washing of feet’ falls in the same category.

  2. Great blog, Mike. I too have led and participated in foot washing services. I wish I could be that kind of servant day in and day out. Good reminder about him probably washing Judas’ feet. Jesus was a true revolutionary.

  3. Gross Mike, gross.

    All kidding aside, I enjoyed your post. The thought of Jesus washing Judas’ feet is a bit chilling.

    When are we at TNC going to participate? 🙂

  4. Mike

    Michael, you and Eugene bless us with your insights and practical applications. Whose feet indeed! What if in that recent White House summit our President had taken a bowl and towel and washed the feet of Mr.
    Netanyahu? Might such an act change the world? Culturally irrelevant? Then what would be a modern adaptation of foot washing? My guess is that doing that thing would more profoundly work toward world peace than dozens of formal, power-tie meetings in the Oval Office. Of course this kind of action requires a strength that is beyond most powerful people.
    Thanks for your words.

    Mike

  5. Georgie-ann

    Before reading the article & viewing the video — just from the title alone — I already had an immediate “response” in mind, because I’ve had a “certain saying”/practice, developed (under significant duress) a long time ago. But the story & video certainly “fleshed out” the issue, and brought more and other thoughts and feelings to the table!

    My long-held, (and rather well-earned, — even “well-seasoned” — if I DO say so myself!), position on this has been: The greatest “revenge” you can have in any situation is to get the person, him or herself, “saved” (i.e., released from satan’s grip), because it is really satan who is your truest enemy, and who is responsible for the darkness that this person is living in and is motivated by.

    Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

    So, rather than stew around in unfruitful personal confrontations, inner turmoil, and negative “wishes” that God will/should judge them, or perhaps, “send them directly to hell in a handbasket,” — (and this, “the sooner, the better” in order to “get them out of your own hair” the sooner, the better!) — I decided to look at/(focus on) what I considered to be the “root of the problem,” and pray more appropriate, and hopefully more effective, (including “spiritual warfare”) prayers. I have found this to be helpful in many situations and ways, and even as “cooling off” (disengagement) advice for others involved in difficult nose-to-nose confrontations, irritations and ongoing conflicts.

    The first thing to be gained by this outlook is “position.” I can “step out of” the direct line of conflict.

    2 Chronicles 20:15 ” … Hearken, … The Lord says this to you: ‘Be not afraid or dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’ ”

    Since we’ve had “unsaved” enemies in very plenteous ongoing supply around here, and perhaps more doggedly in-your-face than “saved” ones, I guess this has seemed sufficient for many of the issues-at-hand. It allows me to remain, usually, at least “polite” (but polite isn’t necessarily “warm and friendly” now, is it?), distant, “safe(?)”, observing and praying,…and the praying for salvation IS done very sincerely, and that is something I might consider to be a sign of spiritual “achievement” or growth, a generosity toward the “offender” that did not come naturally to begin with. And, in all honesty, the “spiritual warfare” for their soul(s) can be very grueling, and is “my free gift” to them!

    How many such prayer projects have really come to be saved? I couldn’t tell you. I leave it in God’s hands:

    1 Corinthians 3:7-9 (Paul,…speaking on ministry,…here, to the body:)

    7 “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

    I feel as if the issues, in this way, become more like water off the proverbial (oiled, protected) feathers on a duck’s back. And given many of the difficult nitty-gritty situations that go on around here, that is where I feel personally “safer” leaving things. Missing? Warmer, personal, more encouraging, perhaps evangelizing, connections and interactions.

    But, even Jesus sent the disciples out by twos to engage with “the world.” Around here, we often do not have this luxury, and just manage to survive in ones. Conducting ourselves with appropriate wisdom is necessary! (unfortunately?,…but so, nonetheless,…)

    (btw,…I did sell my “good intentions and impulses” a little tiny bit short in the preceding description, because there have certainly been times when I’ve been able to conceive of ways to make overtures or gestures that would be recognized as positive and affirming, even in the face of resolute and staunch resistance.)

    But now the question arises, what of problems with “fellow believers” (or “supposed” fellow believers)? After all, it can be hard to tell sometimes! It becomes even more important to “pray for peace” and to focus on issues about “planks/beams/logs” that might be in our own eyes!

    Luke 6:42 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, allow me to take out the speck that is in your eye, when you yourself do not see the beam that is in your own eye? You actor (pretender, hypocrite)! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.’ ”

    I would say that disengaging from direct conflict is still well-advised, as is praying about one’s own motives and intentions, asking for God’s guidance, including discussions with respected members of the body. Distance, time, and perspective, are still helpful ingredients, but honesty, apologies, and showing willingness to rethink things together, are also beneficial and needed efforts. But as most of us know by now, in human interactions, there really can be “no guarantees” and formulas that will ALWAYS work for everyone.

    (Cue:) Abraham Lincoln’s — (Kentucky’s “favorite son!”) — very famous remark in this regard: “You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

    When we have a personal connection with God that we value, that gives us a sense of quiet, internal self-respect “in Him” (something that satan literally hates,…and sometimes “others” do to!), this can be an anchor that allows us to approach difficult situations with some degree of greater peace and equanimity. If in this way, we become willing/able “to wash one another’s feet,” especially if this seems to be a difficult proposition for the moment, then we can be grateful that God is at work in us, to bring us closer to Him, ourselves, and one another:

    Philippians 2:13 ” … for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.”

    As you have told the story, I sense that “intimacy” and “personal exposure” are felt to be normal, but sensitive and “defended” human areas, and I think that you are right. And perhaps different cultures have different “trigger areas”/(protected zones).

    “Feet,” in our culture, are an amazing area, as most Americans routinely enclose their feet almost completely and regularly in very tough shoes — (excluding the flip-flop crowd!,… & yeah, I’m kind of a flip-floppily inclined person, truth to be told!). So, in general, our feet have become very used to privacy & being hidden away! And so, feet — besides being “just feet” — can also be symbolic, representative of, and kind of “connected to” many “hidden”/protected/unexposed and perhaps “not very well recognized” other sensitive parts of our own selves!

    I was thinking that these “places” might be just as “nervous”/resistant about being “touched”/washed/seen or felt, as even our personal self-consciousness about the gross, externally gathered dirt of the highways and the by-ways, and the sweat, that actually does adhere to our feet.

    In any case, feet seem to evoke many “irrational” reactions! Because of this, I’m suspecting that they may represent much (about ourselves) that we simply “take for granted,” do not pay much attention to, ignore, or are barely aware of throughout our daily lives.

    Healthy feet rarely complain, and are certainly humble (sometimes “funny looking”?) and obedient (do they even have a choice?) servants of “the rest” of us — continuously absorbing the merciless shock and effects of their impact with the earth on our behalf. Why do we feel somehow separated from them, embarrassed by them, “above(?)” them in some way? After all, God has designed them for the work/service that they do!

    1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (excerpted)

    12 “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body … 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

    15 “Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. … 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

    21 ” … the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

    27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

    By the way, this is NOT what I thought I was going to say when I got started! — “An Ode to the Lonely and Sadly Ignored Foot!” — and I intend to finish up quite soon!

    But,… with one last “tip of the hat” to my beloved, kind and very patient Foot Doctor (for real!), who has always treated my feet with the utmost of gentleness, respect and good service! — (they are very happy to be able to get some minor, but regular routine attention from him!) — and if he finds them to be “weird and gross,” he’s been stoic enough to never “let on” about it. He must be effectively and successfully “ministering” kindness to more than just my poor ole feet, because I’ve also “all but given up” feeling the need to routinely apologize to him about them — which, of course, as you’ve well described — I’ve always felt inclined to do! And I think he must be healing more than my feet!

    Anyway,…Bravo feet!,…(“case closed” on that),…

    We’ll have our best “revenge” on our worst enemy when we recognize who he unfailingly is,…AND when we can deeply love, sympathize with, and respect ourselves and (most) others, which is exactly what our real enemy wants to prevent us from doing, being and having!

    “God bless us, everyone!” (tiny Tim Cratchit)

    • My one thought about your version of revenge is that we can wash people’s feet, but we can’t save anyone. I do think you’re absolutely correct about the identity of our only enemy. Now that he’s been appropriately identified, we can go about loving everyone else.

      btw: thanks for the little expose on feet.

      • Georgie-ann

        I guess the thing I was trying to say is that by ID-ing the real “enemy” and in this way re-thinking our relationship(s) and connections — (re-think = “repent”) — we can begin TO PULL OURSELVES out of “direct conflict mode” (a “fight or flight” stance, etc.), which is very dependent on negatively characterizing the particular human-that-bugs-us, and re-orient ourselves to find a prayer mode.

        Once I learned more-or-less how (and why) to do this, it opened up a “general approach” that could be applied in many circumstances. I “know” I can’t change or save anyone, but if the change is IN MY OWN HEART, that I would absolutely prefer salvation for them than damnation, then we’re “getting somewhere” spiritually!

        (Like the song, “Let there be peace on earth & let it begin with me!”)

        I DO find more peace around me, when I approach potential conflicts with God’s peace in my heart toward all concerned. I’m not a pacifist however. I know that it is also very important not to “sell out” in the Truth department (God’s and personal). But being free to refuse to “cast one’s pearls before swine” saves many a problem as well.

        Everyone needs/deserves a chance to grow and develop and learn to “see” themselves and others spiritually, and we’re most certainly “not all on the same page” in these matters. Those “Spiritual fruits” of patience/long-suffering, meekness, kindness, (Galatians 5) come into play here.

        This is why things never get “boring” in God. Guaranteed!

      • Georgie-ann

        Just an added note, anytime you’re led to disturb satan’s equilibrium in a situation — challenge his hold on something or someone — he WILL resist you, almost without fail. Even if outwardly you are polite and “quiet as a mouse,” if your prayers have “touched down” on an area he considers to be solidly in his possession, there are “no guarantees” as to what may or may not transpire. And it is this type of interaction that I especially, personally, refer to as “spiritual warfare.”

        I would imagine that “spiritual warfare” can actually take as many forms as “foot washing” can. Intentionally “doing good” is a form of resistance to satan — (as he is called “the god of this world” and he is evil) — and therefore it challenges his “proprietorship” over the things that transpire. “Doing Good on Purpose” is a very very very fun way to do “spiritual warfare” with satan, especially as “there is no law” against it! (So, go for it! Help those “old ladies” crossin’ the street! & so much more!!!)

        Galatians 5:22,23
        22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. AGAINST SUCH THERE IS NO LAW.”

        I just love “to get satan’s goat!” And — acting with simple, childlike hearts and faith (with unfeigned love supporting) — it IS possible to do so without too much repercussion, in SOME situations. I highly advise the intentional acts of “doing of good” in these relatively safe situations!

        However, it is/has been the misfortune of some of us to have encountered situations with a much more dangerous, threatening element involved. I would not impute guilt to anyone who has the wisdom AND good fortune to be able create great distances between themselves and such imposing issues. We don’t owe the devil OR abusive people any apologies for leaving them “in our dust” if we are not equipped to handle them.

        Luke 9:5 “And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

        That being said, it DOES also happen that longtime dealing with comparatively unavoidable “in your face” negative issues of hostility, unbelief, etc., DOES result in some believers becoming “conditioned” (by praying, surviving and coping with “the devil,” in these things), to be able to resist and deal with “more than the average bear” in these undoubtedly demonically-fed and infiltrated situations. By submitting to God, listening and watching closely “in the Spirit,” such people “gain authority” in these realms. But this is an area to be handled with great respect, & no foolhardiness.

        So,… (this would be a “typical example” of what I’ve often referred to as “spiritual warfare:”),… IF, I somehow have aroused the anger and resistance of the “resident devils” in a given situation (meaning a person),… INSTEAD OF allowing myself to be drawn into the interpersonal antagonism from which “no winner” will ultimately emerge,… IF, I “back off” and pray for the peace of God to come into their soul, praying for their salvation as a gratuitous “act of generosity,”… KNOWING that my prayers will not guarantee a result,… I may still face unavoidable resistance and harassment and “attacks” from their devils for a period of time until I’m able — with God’s help — to break their “hold” or “blow them off,”… To me, this is the kind of “spiritual warfare” that a person would usually probably rather “not do,” — given their druthers — as there is nothing pleasant about it, and it usually comes as a very big distraction from more “normal” and nice things one would prefer to be doing. — (Like baking cookies for the neighbors.)

        But, since it makes itself basically “unavoidable,” it becomes what I refer to as “my free gift” to God, the person and society-at-large. It can feel a little bit like clearing out part of a very small corner of a very very big, dark and dank infested basement of a nest of nasty biting insecty-things all wrapped up in some kind of damp mildewed sticky cobwebs.

        It takes effort. It’s nasty. It resists. It takes time. It takes fortitude. It takes spiritual strength and determination. It probably takes “a Watchman on the wall.” I personally believe that “every little bit helps” of this kind of “housecleaning” in the war against satan, his “strongholds” and his legions. So, when it comes my way, I don’t shun the spiritual work, but neither do I go looking for it either.

        I’ve shared this by way of clarification. Some people may recognize something similar to their own experiences, but it may seem quite foreign and bizarre to others. It seems like something you kind of learn “by your bootstraps,” although good descriptions and accounts can be found of the “spiritual warriors” and intercessors of old. It’s not often the most forefront topic of conversation, unless it’s something you deal with fairly regularly. I have a few friends for which this is pretty much “old hat” by now. Perhaps we’re getting ready to “pass on the torch” at this point! I’m sure it was passed to us somewhere along the line!

        Nehemiah 7:3 “I said to them, ‘Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while the watchmen are still on guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from the people of Jerusalem, each to his watch [on the wall] and each opposite his own house.’ ”

        Amen.

      • Georgie-ann

        Acts 10:38 “How God anointed and consecrated Jesus of Nazareth with the [Holy] Spirit and with strength and ability and power; how He went about DOING GOOD and, in particular, curing all who were harassed and oppressed by [the power of] the devil, for God was with Him.”

        (-:

  6. elna

    I was confronted with a question this morning. Why is someone my enemy? If I was a true child of God my enemy would be an enemy because he/she is God’s enemy. so often we want God to declare someone His enemy because they in some way made us angry. We want God on our side but we don’t want to be on God’s side so much. The Bible teaches that God loved us when we were still His enemy. And that we need to love our enemy as God loved us, full knowing who we are and what we as enemy are capable of. Jesus healed many many people full knowing that they will crucify Him in the end. He provided food for them. He was willing to be crucified for them. He was willing to die for them knowing full well that most of them won’t accept His sacrifice.
    Who is my enemy? Why is that person my enemy? When we get squeamish when we read how God treats His enemies, is it because we ‘love’ all people so much…or because we feel guilty about our own treacherous behaviour towards our King?

  7. Pingback: When You’re Drowning In Stress | The Neighborhood Café

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