this morning, i awoke from a dream in which we were at war, my church against another, over some desperate disagreement on doctrine. we were armed & ready for first light, waiting for attack. swords, guns, bows & arrows, knives… the battle began with a runner from the enemy charging with a long sword. one person from our lines ran straight for him yelling something about love. she impaled herself on his sword & in her last efforts of life embraced him. he just froze in shock. another broke out in a sprint from our side & skewered herself behind the first, arms stretched out. as the second warrior was dying she looked around for another to follow their example of love instead of war. there was confusion, a pause in the hostilities, as if what happened next would determine the outcome. finally, a nearby man — on their side or ours, i don’t know — took the remaining few exposed inches of the sword into his own stomach as he gathered the bloody group hug into his arms & proclaimed, “choose love!” it ended the war before it really began. only three fatalities. and not from being cut down but from self-sacrifice. instead of killing, they chose to be killed, in hopes of showing the rest of us the Way of Christ.
it made me think of a book edited & contributed to by my dear friend justin barringer — a faith not worth fighting for. the various authors defend that our faith is worth dying for, but not killing for. such a crucial distinction.
i remember speeches & conversations from my dream that followed the failed battle. i recall us talking about what we were willing to do for one another in sacrifice to preserve unity. we also talked about those things we would not do, things in which the restraint was sacrificial.
i think these are timely dreams & thoughts for holy thursday as we remember Jesus wrapped in a towel & on His knees. what was He willing to do? in what ways did He choose love? we might first reflect on His crucifixion, innocent but dying for our guilt. He lowered Himself to the death of a slave. but before that, He lowered Himself to the station of a slave in life. He loved in a way that was humiliating, especially considering His position among them, not to mention His position in the heavenlies. He even washed the feet of the youngest james who, in the absence of a servant to perform the task, should have taken up the towel himself. He even washed the feet of peter who argued with Him in his usual naive hot-headed manner. He even washed the feet of judas. the one who had already traded Him for a handful of silver. the one who would hand Him over to that death of a slave.
some versions of scripture say He did this foot washing to “show them the fullest extent of His love.” from my research, i don’t think it a very accurate translation [the new niv changed it], but i enjoy pondering over the phrase anyway. because you would think it would be attributed to His crucifixion! not mundane foot washing. but i think when we consider how He asked us to follow His example, maybe the towel is an even greater test of our devotion & love than the cross. for us, in the after-Christ era, literally dying for someone else can offer air of grandeur. it begs that our name live on in glorious story, in awe of our sacrifice, in praise of our character. but to take up the towel & quietly wash dirty feet offers no marquees of acclamation, no reward of being cast the hero, no honor of others wishing they might do the same if in your shoes. the towel is ironically the height of humility. and to follow Jesus to the cross, we must first don the towel.
so who are the least in your community? who are the dirty in your family? who are the frustrating ones in your work? who are the enemies in your life? and what will you do to choose love? how will you pick up a towel & quietly, humbly wash their feet?
You donned the towel of the slave
while they argued who was greatest.
You washed their feet of the dirt
From which they were created.
You then commissioned them & us
to do as You had done:
to serve the least in ways beneath us,
even the undeserving one.
in an act of basest service You showed
the way of those most blessed.
in following You & Your ways,
we become first by being last.