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I pray that the Lord will guide you to be as loving as God and as patient as Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (CEV)

It was far from my finest moment. There certainly was no compassion, no grace or no acceptance in my actions. I was totally out of line.  It was several years ago now, but the memory is still fresh in my mind. The neighbors were having marital issues and the husband came over to talk to me and try to get information that he could use against his wife.

To be honest I don’t remember much of the conversation even though it went on for close to two hours. What I do remember is that at some point he made a comment about how his (soon-to-be) ex-wife could never be forgiven for what she’d done to the marriage. I wasn’t thinking. I intended to put a hand on his shoulder and reassure him that his statement wasn’t true. What I did instead was more of a grasp and push. He looked scared. I was embarrassed. I apologized of course and later we laughed about the scene.

While the physical parts of my actions are most likely not practiced by many, each of us has been on one end or the other of a good ‘holy shove’. You have a loved one that you see self-destructing. The most frustrating part of it is that ‘they should know better’ but they just keep going down the same road. So, you shake them up. Not physically of course (I hope), but with your words, your attitude, your ‘sharing the gospel with them’ and ‘setting them straight’.

In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul lays the foundation for how we treat others. Our actions towards each other are to be marked with love and unity. That is the key for our evangelism. That is the key for discipleship and discipline.

We were called as Christ-followers to make disciples, not converts. Disciples take time. Disciples grow due to relationship. Disciples follow our Godly example not our theological knowledge. Discipleship takes patience. Not any patience by the way, but the patience of Christ.

The patience of Christ is seen in the story of the prodigal son. Daily the father watched the road leading home. Daily he heard stories of his son’s antics and failures. Daily he prayed for his safe return. On that glorious day when a familiar shape walked down the road towards him he didn’t have an ‘I told you so’ speech ready. There was no list of the young man’s failures and a ‘how could you do this to us’ tongue-lashing. There was only love and celebration.

Patience with ourselves and others isn’t possible without the patience of Christ in us. It’s easier to be patient with the jerks in life when I fully realize what Jesus went through for me. It’s by his patience that I seek to treat others. But that still isn’t easy. I want change now. Change in your life. Change in mine. Change comes slowly in God’s world. We serve a ‘crock-pot’ God and live in a microwave world.

Attitude is the key to life change. If those who are struggling see us as patient, loving and caring people who truly seek their good they will respond as God works in their lives. Ours is not to change lives. Ours is to provide the direction and atmosphere for change.

If you are dealing with someone who you’d like to give a good shoulder shake, remember to act according to the love of God and patience of Christ. If you’ve been on the other end of the emotional ‘shoulder-shake’ realize that Gods way is a way of firm gentle calling, not shaking. Like the father in the prodigal son, he’s daily calling you home and searching the path for your approach. He loves you no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done.

PRAYER: Father God, help me to exhibit your love and Christ’s patience in my life as I travel this journey. Forgive me for the emotional ‘shoulder shakes’ I’ve had a part in. Heal my wounds from the shoulder-shakes I’ve endured. Thank you for being patient with me. In Jesus name, Amen.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:5

So, imagine, just for a moment, that you are one of Jesus’ disciples. It’s been a long day walking along the hot and dusty road through the wilderness. You are hot and tired. Even the thoughts of the people Jesus healed in the last town aren’t lifting your spirits. All you can think of is laying down to eat and giving your hot sore feet a rest.

As you enter the room where the meal is to be served you breathe a sigh of relief. The room is ready. The clay walls have kept the room cool. A welcome relief from the blazing sun outside. You scan the room briefly. Table is ready. Bread is out. Fresh wine is already poured. Foot washing bowl is in the corner complete with towel and ….wait. Where is the foot-washing servant?

You shake your head. Judas and his penny-pinching. How hard would it have been to get a servant to wash your feet? The coolness of the room is replaced by the heat of anger rising inside you. It doesn’t take that much to plan.

You look around once more. Nope. No servant. Most of the others probably think your face is red from being outside. It isn’t. It’s red with anger as you make your way to your spot. Hopefully you’ll get a place near Jesus so that if an opportune time comes you can tell him what you think of the lack of a servant.

John reclines beside you. Great! Everyone knows that he has the smelliest feet of the group and now there’s no one to wash them. Can this day get any worse? Your thoughts are interrupted by the sloshing sound of water. A momentary sense of relief comes as you turn towards the sound. The momentary relief is replaced by shock as you look down and see Jesus at your feet. Towel wrapped around his waist, his hands gently washing the hot dust from your feet. It feels so incredibly good on one hand, and seems so incredibly wrong on the other. He’s the Rabbi! He has no place stooping so low as to wash our feet.

What was that he was saying? No servant is greater than his master? Of course not. A servant is a servant. Then it hits you. We are all servants. John with his stinking feet is no better or worse than you are. Judas with his penny-pinching, shady ways is on the same level as you too. And Peter, with his arrogant, speak-now-think-later ways? No worse than the attitude you are embracing in your heart.

It’s the same Jesus today as in the upper room. He is still willing to kneel down to your level. He’s still willing to touch you in the areas that are most in need of his touch, no matter how dirty, no matter how rotten those areas are.

His love is like soothing cool water on hot, painful feet. His touch softens the hardest calluses of your soul. Jesus thinks nothing of stooping to the lowest level to lift you up. Let him wash your feet today. Feel the soothing, healing relief of his love and forgiveness. Then reach out to those who need to feel that touch as well.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for the lesson of the feet washing. I confess that there are too many times I’ve thought myself to important or too busy to reach out to others who need to feel your touch. Refresh me with the soothing touch of your love and forgiveness. Empower me to share your love and forgiveness with those around me. In your name I pray, Amen.

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