My brand-new white shoes got dirtied within the span of just a few days. But of course, right? I know it sounds trivial – and I should have seen this coming when I bought them – but I was still really frustrated.
I really tried to keep them clean this time! But it’s as though white shoes are dirt magnets just for being white. It’s nearly impossible to keep them pristine as we walk around outside.
This got me thinking about something Jesus famously said to his disciples about their feet during the Last Supper.
On the night He was about to be betrayed, Jesus, knowing what lay ahead for Him, decided to wash His disciples’ feet. Back then, when people walked long dusty distances in sandals and had their feet covered in all sorts of dirt and animal dung, this was the job of servants.
Peter, ever the expressive one, immediately refused – how can! – to which Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8).
Hearing this, Peter probably panicked, requesting to have his head and hands washed too. Very Singaporean. But Jesus then responded, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean.” (John 13:10-11).
He was talking about the difference between justification and sanctification.
Justification is being restored to right standing before God. As sinners, we have no right to be reconciled to Him who is holy, but because of Jesus, who died for us, we are washed clean from sin by His blood, from the inside out. We are made righteous the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10)
But justification isn’t the end of the journey. As we walk through this world in our new white robes of righteousness, it’s really just like walking through a dusty land in white shoes. Our souls may be forever washed clean, but our soles are not!
Yes, Jesus has broken our chains and we are no longer slaves to Sin as believers (Romans 8:2) – we are justified once and for all! We don’t need to keep repeating the Sinner’s Prayer. But sinning is very much a reality in our lives because we still live in a sinful world (Romans 7:16-17).
That’s why sanctification – the daily washing of feet – needs to happen.
To be sanctified is to be continually conformed to the image of Christ. The Bible says that the Spirit lives in the children of God and testifies that they belong to Christ (Romans 8:14, 16). Galatians 5:22-23 sums up the attributes of a believer truly living in accord with the Holy Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Sanctification is an ongoing process, a daily work. It’s like being curled out of our old ways and into a new way of living – the way of Jesus Christ. And just like paper that’s been curled for too long, we’re so used to the old postures of life that we’re prone to keep bouncing back even after we’ve been set free from our bondage to Sin and straightened out.
There are still times when I gossip, think badly of others, and lose my temper – among other things. Every day is a battle against these older tendencies to conform to– to intentionally comply to and choose – a higher way.
WASHED BY THE WORD
It is this part of salvation that I have to work out and live out continually, and it will only be completed when Jesus comes back for us again (Philippians 2:12; 1:6).
Like white shoes, we are dirtied to some extent every single day we spend in this world. You might have them defiled by getting stepped on by others, you might stumble into a puddle of muddy water.
Whatever it is, we have to continually work at washing the layers of grime off so that the white canvas may remain spotless.
“… as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)
Just as Peter let Jesus wash his feet, we have to be humble in coming to Him in our Quiet Time and letting Him sanctify us daily too.