Lent Day 36 — Humble leaders
 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:12-20 ESV)
Jesus must have shocked and perplexed his disciples by washing their feet. What did Jesus mean by, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”? How literally should we take these words? Some churches conduct foot washing ceremonies to emphasis Jesus’ admonition to do likewise. But I tend to agree with those who think Jesus applies the foot washing figuratively, meaning it is intended to point us toward loving and serving one another.
Broadly speaking, I believe Jesus is talking about Christian shepherds being strong, effective leaders by first being truly humble and serving others.
The disciples took this teaching to heart as they took the gospel of Christ to the world. They were first of all servants, even from a jail cell on occasion. Their humility sometimes led to death, but they never wavered. The true church from then to now has grown where it has learned the lesson of the power of humility.
In my business experience, those executives who learn how to wash their employees’ feet (figuratively) were invariably powerful leaders who motivated their employees with love and humility. A high level of human ambition and executive drive is good. Add real, God-given, foot-washing humility and it’s even better.
Effective leadership and true humility are not mutually exclusive.