Saturday, December 10, 2011

Those who give freely, receive freely

Christian discipleship is important in understanding how to conduct oneself as an adherer to Christian faith. The essence of an act can only be understood in how it impacts others. Christian discipleship similarly can be only understood based on how it impacts others.

In John 13: 1-16 (“For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.”) Jesus sets an example for his disciples to follow. By washing their feet he calls for servitude and humility as essential to Christian faith.

Washing feet is profound in the symbolism it offers. Feet can only be submerged as much as it does not remain too long in water and lose colour. But by washing feet we are also becoming close with those who are away. What could for some be humiliation, in this case becomes the point of breaking forth all that holds us back. Washing feet thus becomes very important.

The states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in India are engaged in a conflict over a dam and the water it contains. The fear of one state is of being submerged if the dam breaks and the need of the other state is of water, to bring life and offer food to its people. In a single country we are divided into various regions and each region then addresses to the needs of the region. That leads to walls being constructed and boundaries being defined.

The imagery of washing the feet, the dam and the water with people on two sides brings about much to think about. How is one to make sense of it? Will anyone seriously think about washing away an entire people just to save themselves? I don't think so. The water in the dam then becomes too holy to touch. The fight for the water and the dam smells of religious overtones of holiness which the other is not supposed to touch and meddle with.

Religions cannot be so narrow in their outlook. The existence of religion is for conflict resolution and not conflict arousal. Jesus' call for washing of the feet should resonate amidst this conflict over water. The neighbours should wash each others feet with the Mullaperiyar water and not turn this into a holy turf war. Our religiousness should make us give and not take.

Christians also have an important role to play. It cannot just be naive support for anti-regional feelings but should be a resolve to serve those who are in need. A believer of Jesus should sense the feeling of déjà vu wherein Jesus’ act of washing the feet of his disciples should come alive again.

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