Maybe Foot Washing SHOULD Be a Third Ordinance???

Let me confess something up front: I HATE FEET. HATE them.

That’s right. I hate your feet. I hate my feet. I just don’t like feet, period. In fact, one of the determining factors as to whether or not Katie was ‘the one’ was because I can stand her feet (okay, there were a few other things that I really liked, but it helped ALOT that she had great looking feet).

So a few years ago when I heard that some churches have ‘foot washing services’ and practice it as a 3rd ordinance, I was more thankful than I have ever been to be Southern Baptist. I don’t do feet. In fact, as committed I am to being Southern Baptist and holding strong to their doctrine(s) and direction, I would have left the SBC a long time ago if it required real ‘foot washing’ as a 3rd ordinance.

I have grown up and strongly believe the church is to practice 2 ordinances and ONLY 2 ordinances: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Can I get an ‘Amen’? Can I get a loud ‘Amen’ from those who are glad we don’t have to wash each other’s nasty toes?

But I rethought this a bit earlier today for the first time in my life.

Francis Schaeffer, in his book No Little People, wrote this very insightful paragraph (note – he uses the word ‘sacrament’ instead of ordinance):

“Christ put a towel around Himself and washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:4). We should ask ourselves from time to time, ‘Whose feet am I washing?’ Some churches have made foot-washing into a third sacrament; members wash each other’s feet during their worship service. While most of us think it is a mistake to make this a sacrament, let us admit that it is 10,000 times better to wash each other’s feet in a literal way than never to was anybody’s feet in any way. It would be far better for us to make a mistake and institute a third sacrament of literal foot-washing than to live out our lives without once consciously choosing to serve each other. Doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is not some exotic thing; it is having and practicing the mentality which Christ commands.”

I’ve never looked at it that way, but I believe Schaeffer is right. It would be better to require foot washing as an ordinance for believers (and be wrong!) than to not ever ‘wash feet’ as a means of serving others. Jesus’ point in washing the feet of the disciples (as is Schaeffer’s here) was not to necessarily wash their literal feet (praise be to God!), but to consider yourself as a slave and servant of others – living in order to make others thrive.

I’m not about to leave the Southern Baptist Convention for a denomination that issues foot washing as a 3rd ordinance, but perhaps I do need to – in another, deeper sense – ask myself whose feet am I washing? You and I are surrounded with opportunities to make other’s great today.



About pastormpearson

Follower of Jesus. Husband to Katie. Father to Luke, Seth, and Birtukan. Pastor of the First Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas.

Posted on February 10, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. One of the most humbling and deeply spiritual events that happened to your Dad and me during the week of our appointment service by the IMB came when leaders of the mission board brought us to the front and brushed our shoes. The ones who were being appointed as singles came up individually. Since your Dad and I were going as a “unit,” we sat side by side. Yes, they took literal shoebrushes and brushed the grime and dust from our shoes, while we sat and they kneeled in front of us. We were then given those brushes as reminders of the time. This act of “serving us” and “making us ready for service” is permanently etched in my mind.
    Perhaps we are missing something, as Southern Baptists, in not having more reminders of what Jesus did for His disciples and how it must have felt to them.

  2. When I was in college at Ouachita, the social club I was a part of practiced a “foot washing” ceremony to demonstrate our desire to serve others. Each member would wash the feet of each pledge. I have to admit, while it was a little awkward at first, it was a very moving experience. It also created a strong bond between each of us. Christ has called us to humble ourselves before others with an attitude of service and love. There was not a clearer demonstration of this than to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Good post pastor!

  3. The fact that your hatred for feet emphasizes that your belief in the Last Supper is a bit off. He did the foot washing ceremony because that was what a lowly servant was meant to do. He showed that he might have been uncomfortable doing it as well, but he did it because no man is above another. It also shows how humble he was, something you lack.

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