So where does the idea of helping the citizens of the vanquished foe to return to safer, more productive lives come from? When did our ideas about the possibility of the victor having responsibilities rather than unfettered "rights" get legs in the history of the world? This is for me one of the most interesting things about reading history. Does might still overcome right in our age...sure, but not at all like it did in past ages.
But such an idea certainly did not come from brains which are hardwired (with good reason) to place personal, community, tribal, national survival as the primary directive. Safety first only gets overridden when a greater safety can be conceived. For instance, a mother may run into a burning house to reach her child and get that child to safety even if the chances of her being injured or killed are great.
But John reports* the most amazing perspective of God. Jesus said, "I am your Lord and Teacher. But I washed your feet. So you also should also wash each other's feet." That is just not something that naturally makes sense. Where is the order in that? Where is the safety in that? If you have ever had a pedicure or seen this done I want you to think about the posture of this. One participant has her shoes off and offers a foot to the other person who is stooped down in a posture where it is easy to knock them over. This is an activity that requires a certain amount of trust by both parties.
It seems by looking at the different reports overlaid with the customs of the times that Jesus washed the feet of His friends and followers while Judas was still with them on Thursday of Holy Week. That kind of makes my heart skip a beat. Christ, who was Son of both God and Man, would have known Judas was headed down a slippery slope and, indeed, a bit later we are told that Judas was gently confronted about this and left the group to complete his betrayal. But Christ knelt in love and service to him, wanted him to turn away from his sin, but released Judas to Judas's free will and events that his betrayal would usher in. He did not order, plead, rant or abase His betrayer, but treated him with gentleness and courtesy. He did not single him our with regard to His betrayal, because in truth all of the Disciples would come up short in the coming hours, so all were gently cautioned.
The surviving Disciples would be charged with being world leaders without armies in a way not experienced before or since. So even in in the hours before the beginning of the suffering and death, Christ acted with kindness and hospitality not just to Judas, but to Peter, John and all these beloved friends who would have to remember their own cowardliness and short comings of the following hours and days. These who had lived most closely with Jesus, who had experienced healing and forgiveness and restoration and learning for months were going to have a very humbling time remembering their own failures as they went fort to spread the News.
How different would have been their response to those who betrayed, abused and threatened them if they had not first experienced their own brokenness in such a stunning way, inoculating them well from the arrogance and self-righteousness that gets so many of us in trouble when we view ourselves as better beings because we are loved by God.
How could anyone less than the God of God, King of Kings and Lord of Hosts possibly get us to even consider allowing ourselves to be vulnerable before those are capable of causing us harm. Yet Christ said, "I do it. So must you." Who else would offer at such a time, comfort and teaching for those He loved so dearly, modeling for them anew a new way of living that would usher in a new paradigm where a relationship with God becomes more desirable than physical safety.
* John 13:14