On a cold winter day my mind drifts back to warm summer memories. I travel back to my childhood summers. Brown as a bean from playing outside all day, I would return home climbing the back porch stairs and entering our tiny kitchen. The screen door would slam shut behind me announcing my arrival. From somewhere in the inner regions of the house would come my mother’s voice, “Wipe your feet!”. Halfway across the newly mopped kitchen floor I would retreat to the mat and wipe my feet. This was remarkably familiar, and I smile within with fond memories of the safety and welcome of this routine.
Today as I seek to “enter His Gates” and “Come into His courts” I still hear, in my minds ear, “Wipe your feet!” Just as my mother could not and would not tolerate dirty kitchen floors God does not and will not tolerate His throne room being polluted with sin. Confession can become an under practised spiritual exercise. In liturgical churches it can easily become rote. In non liturgical churches it can be easily omitted or perfunctory. In private devotions our rush to intercede for ourselves and our world (Good and Godly desires) leads too often to neglect of confession.
Like any other good thing if our enemy can not get us to ignore it he tricks us into becoming obsessed with it. I remember a time when I had behaved badly and lost my temper. That night in prayer I went before God. “Here I am for like the billionth time! You must be so sick of me coming like this!” and then I felt God’s voice come to me. “I certainly remember this last time,” and the scene of my offense played out before me and I felt the weight of its guilt and shame “but I don’t remember any billion times.” I confessed and felt forgiven for my sin! Later I would recall that “As far as the East is from the West, so far has he cast my sin” and that He “remembers it no more against” me.
Peter resisted having his feet washed. This is a more drastic version of wiping one’s feet. After becoming convinced of the necessity of allowing Jesus to thus clean him he wanted his whole body bathed. Jesus simply chided him that all that was necessary was a good wiping of feet.
All this to say that we do not have to flog ourselves constantly for sin. Jesus took our stripes. Once we have been adopted into the family of God we are welcome, as the writer of Hebrews says, to “Boldly approach the throne”. Yet we ought not to disrespect God and his holiness by rushing into His presence without first wiping our feet.
Many of us have mirrors by our doors to quickly check our appearance before we go out into the world. We do not want to launch out with breakfast stains on our tie or our fly unzipped. We should take a moment before our corporate or private worship to do such a spiritual check. The Psalmist invites God to search him and find any wrong, and so should we.
After wiping my feet, I was welcomed to the warmth of my family home and I could ask my mother the important questions like “When is supper?” or “Can I go over to Steve’s after supper?” But I dared not ask those questions if I had not first wiped my feet!
We are all bidden into God’s presence and family. Wipe your feet!