“No one is of the Spirit of Christ but he that has the utmost compassion for sinners.” -William Law
The most difficult thing you will do in life is love a sinner. I don’t mean have emotional feelings for people, I mean go out of your way, sacrifice what you want, and love someone – not because you profit from it in any way, but because Jesus commands you, as a proclaimed follower of Him, to do so.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” -John 13:34
So that all sounds fine and good, but how do we love sinners? First, let me clarify, ever single solitary person on the face of the earth is a sinner. So yes, I am saying what you think I’m saying, love everyone. When thinking about how to love people, I think firstly of Jesus washing the disciples feet (John 13:1-17).
This act is already an act of sacrifice and humility, but when we put it into its cultural context, it becomes even more amazing. I also want to use the physical actions of Jesus as a model for ways in which we can love people.
The washing of feet was an act typically reserved for those of the lowest class of society. As we see in John 13, the disciples basically freaked out over the thought of their rabbi washing their feet. Why? Because they held Jesus in very high esteem, and to associate an act set aside for servants with the Lord of the universe put them in a state of denial (John 13:6-9).
Social status meant a lot to people in this culture, so for Jesus to do this spoke volumes. Many people see what Jesus did as just an example of humility (which it is), but He was also loving His disciples. Because pretty much everyone wore sandals and walked everywhere, and there were almost no paved roads you can imagine how dirty people’s feet were. I think having clean feet would be somewhat of a luxury in that day.
First and foremost, we love sinners out of obedience to Jesus (John 15:17). Second, I believe we love sinners because that is the way we can most effectively establish the Kingdom of God here on earth.
We also love sinners to imitate Christ. He is the best at it, so we can look to Him in the ways He loves as a model for how we should do the same.
This is where I want to use the physical actions of Jesus in John 13 to show some of the ways that we can love.
- The first would be that Jesus “laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist” (vs. 4) and “Then He poured water into a basin” (vs 5).In order to wash the disciples feet, Jesus had to adorn the proper attire and prepare a bowl of water in which to do the washing. The attire, bowl, and the water are not the focus here. The focus is that Jesus prepared to love.He took time to get ready what He needed to love them with. 2 Timothy 2:5 says, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” Part of the rules for competing are training. If you don’t train (prepare) for an event, you will not be crowned. You can prepare to love sinners in many ways. I think the first thing that you must do to prepare yourself to love is accepting that people will sin against you. That is the easy part though. The tricky part is not holding that sin against them and being gracious and merciful to them. The second way is getting to know the ways is which the people you are close with feel the most loved. An in-depth explanation on this can be found by googling the 5 love languages. There are many more, but for the sake of this post’s length, I’ll let you do some searching for yourself.
- This one is said simply: Jesus had to stoop (lower his physical position below that of the disciples) to wash the disciples feet. Basically, humble yourself. I can’t say it any better than “in humility count others more significant than yourselves” Philippians 2:3.
- The last thing I want to point out is something that is obvious, but overlooked. Jesus had fully dove into the act washing feet. The thing that most signifies this is not His position or attire, but rather that His hands were soaking wet. Have you ever had to completely stop doing the dishes because you had to dry your hands to answer your phone or something like that? It’s pretty much impossible to do anything other than wash dishes while you’re doing the dishes, mostly because your hands are wet. So in the same way that Jesus had His hands wet with dirty feet water, we must be fully immersed in the task of love at hand. One of my favorite saying is “wherever you are, be all there”.
When we love people, the way in which we can be most effective is to love sinners just as Jesus Himself loves them. How did and does Jesus love sinners? He laid down His life for them/us!
We have a culture that almost implies a “God forbid you suffer for the sake of someone else!” kind of thinking, but we see all over in the Bible (and the life of Jesus tells and shows us) that it is actually what we should strive to do!
So prepare yourself, humble yourself, and focus on actively loving others in Jesus’ name!