REFLECTIONS
by Al Maxey

Issue #263 ------- August 31, 2006
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Do not consider yourself to have
made any spiritual progress, unless you
account yourself the least of all men.

Thomas Kempis {1380-1471}
"The Imitation of Christ"

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Pondering Pedilavium
A Reflective Examination of the
History & Purpose of Foot Washing

"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 should do as I have done to you" [John 13:14-15]. These words were spoken by Jesus to the Twelve during the evening hours just prior to His arrest. Although this particular statement was specifically directed toward a very select, and rather small, band of disciples, nevertheless it has been regarded by many down through the centuries as being universally applicable. Some Christians today, especially those found within the more conservative and patternistic Churches of Christ have wondered if perhaps the washing of feet should be incorporated into the Sunday assembly as the "sixth act of worship" (the other five being -- singing, praying, preaching, giving, and the Lord's Supper). Most within this faith-heritage, however, have simply ignored the practice altogether as being more custom than command.

Some groups early on felt it to be of great worth as a religious rite and employed it quite freely. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church, has long associated this practice with the liturgy of Maundy Thursday, connecting it intimately to the celebration of the Mass. Among various other groups, especially those of a Protestant persuasion, it was typically used in conjunction with baptism rather than with the Lord's Supper. Thus, foot washing, or pedilavium, as it is known in Catholic circles, has had a long and varied history within Christendom, which we shall notice more fully later in the study.

The biblical record, in both OT and NT writings, clearly speaks of this ancient practice. The first mention of the washing of feet is found in Genesis 18:4. Some strangers appeared to Abraham one day (they would bring him news that he and Sarah would have a child, and also that Sodom was destined for destruction), and he extended hospitality to them in the form of food and some water to wash their feet. Later, when two angels came to the house of Lot in the city of Sodom, he offered unto them the hospitality of his home, and provided them with the means to wash their feet [Gen. 19:2]. We see this courtesy being offered to a servant of Abraham's by Laban, as this servant came to find a wife (Rebekah) for Isaac [Gen. 24:32]. When the brothers of Joseph were brought into his house (although they did not at that time realize it was Joseph), they were given water with which to wash their feet [Gen. 43:24]. We also find water for washing the feet provided in Judges 19:21 and 2 Sam. 11:8. One thing that will be quickly noticed in each of these passages thus far, however, is that although the water was provided as a courtesy, the people washed their own feet. It was never expected by these guests that another would wash their feet for them, nor was such a service ever offered to them. The hospitality was fulfilled in the mere providing of the water, not in the act of washing.

The very first time within the Bible where we encounter someone actually offering to wash the feet of another individual is found in 1 Sam. 25:39-41 -- "And David sent and proposed to Abigail, to take her as his wife. When the servants of David had come to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her saying, 'David sent us to you, to ask you to become his wife.' Then she arose, bowed her face to the earth, and said, 'Here is your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.'" The passage clearly displays an attitude of heart that was willing to provide humble service to another. At this point we find the act of washing feet taking on greater significance than a mere courtesy to tired travelers; it reflected a servant's heart. Abigail, incidentally, was characterized in the Jewish Haggadah as one of the four most beautiful women in the entire world (the other three being Sarah, Esther and Rahab). Perhaps part of that beauty was the inner beauty displayed in this humble act of service to others. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that the apostle Peter may have had women like Abigail in mind when he wrote, "Let not your adornment be merely external -- braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves" [1 Peter 3:3-5].

Clearly, the washing of feet can be viewed on several different levels. The first, and most basic, is that it was simply a courtesy that was to be extended to all weary, foot-sore travelers who came as guests into one's home. "In the ancient Near East, where roads were very dusty and sandals were the common footwear, making provision for guests or travelers to wash their feet was an act of common hospitality" [Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 468]. "Foot washing was a common custom in Eastern lands. The effect of dusty or muddy roads upon feet shod with open sandals made it customary for water and a basin to be available at the entry of homes. It was considered discourteous to neglect the practice" [The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 630]. Bro. David Lipscomb, in his commentary on Paul's first epistle to Timothy, wrote, "Feet were washed at the end of a footsore journey, and was an act of hospitality to strangers. This had from the beginning been regarded as an act of hospitality and kindness" [p. 167].

In time, it came to be customary, especially among those wealthy enough to provide such a service, to wash the feet of one's guests, rather than leaving this task for the guests to perform for themselves. Except in rare circumstances, however, this task was assigned to a slave, as it was considered beneath the master of the house. In fact, "footwashing was regarded as so lowly a task that it could not be required of a Hebrew slave," but only of a slave who came from a pagan nation [The Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 506]. "The host would delegate a servant to the menial task of removing the sandals of the guests and washing their feet" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 136]. "It was considered the most menial task a servant could perform" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 333]. John the Baptist alluded to this fact when he said, "After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals" [Mark 1:7]. John was here referring to the lowliest task a slave could perform -- the washing of another's feet. John recognized that when compared to the Master, he was not even worthy, in his own estimation, to perform this menial task. The statement, therefore, is one of great self-awareness and humility in the presence of the Master!

There were occasions, however, when one did wash the feet of others so as to display depth of devotion to another. Indeed, such acts became associated with the most devout among the disciples of Christ Jesus in the early church, and even came to be regarded as visible indicators of the genuineness of one's faith and Christian profession. When discussing assistance to "widows indeed," Paul wrote the following guidelines to Timothy, "Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work" [1 Tim. 5:9-10]. Lipscomb, in his commentary, says, "Paul classes it as a good work along with bringing up children and visiting the sick. Pious and godly women did it for their brethren who came to them" [p. 167]. "Footwashing is here representative of humble acts of service" [The Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 507]. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia makes the following observation: "Hospitality was expected of all Christians, but particularly of widows, who were charged with accommodating travelers -- of whom there were many, since the gospel was carried from village to village on foot. The reference to foot washing is probably both figurative and literal. Following the example of the Lord, the widow was to give evidence of her humility by performing even the most menial tasks" [vol. 2, p. 333].

The major question that needs to be addressed in all of this is -- did the literal washing of feet come to be regarded as a binding command upon the disciples of Christ? Did it evolve into ritual? Was it associated intimately with other binding acts of faith and devotion? The answer to each of these questions is Yes. Whether foot washing ever should have become such in the church is another question, however. In my studied opinion, the answer to that question is No. But, let's address the first set of questions before moving to the latter one. As with almost anything that is good and proper within itself, the danger is always present for abuse and misuse. When an act of love devolves into an act of law, when a faith response becomes a forced ritual, something has gone terribly wrong. And when such rites and rituals are elevated to conditions of fellowship and salvation, the sectarian spirit has ruled the day! The sad reality is: in some places, and among some historical groups, foot washing became virtually a sacrament of the church, and was closely associated with baptism and the Lord's Supper.

The practice of Pedilavium (foot washing) is attested to by a good many of the Early Church "Fathers" within their writings. Such patristic witnesses as Tertullian (160-230 A.D.) of Carthage, in chapter eight of his work De Corona, Athanasius (296-373 A.D.) of Alexandria, in Canon 66, St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) of Hippo, in his Letter to Januarius (in which he connects it with Easter baptisms), just to name a few, all spoke of this "holy rite" within the church. Irenaeus mentioned it in 180 A.D., and Clement of Alexandria also spoke of it in 195 A.D. We know that it was practiced by the church at Milan around 380 A.D., and that it was mentioned by the Council of Elvira in 300 A.D. Washing the feet of a penitent believer at the time of his or her baptism, as a further symbol of cleansing, was practiced quite early in such diverse places as Africa, Gaul, Germany, northern Italy, and Ireland. It was prescribed in St. Benedict's Rule in 529 A.D. as a standard for the Benedictine Order. "The association of the rite with Maundy Thursday was fixed by the Council of Toledo in 694 A.D. The developed Catholic practice involves a priest washing the feet of twelve poor men" [The Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 507]. This was to imitate the washing of the feet of the Twelve by Jesus on the evening prior to His crucifixion. The Mormons also perform the washing of feet as an ordinance in their temples, although such use is purported to be somewhat infrequent. Some within the Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches also practice this rite, and it is said to be a rather regular practice among the Seventh Day Adventists and the Primitive Baptists.

The Albigensians practiced the washing of feet in connection with the Lord's Supper. The Waldensians developed the custom of washing the feet of their visiting ministers. Some historians feel there is sufficient evidence to associate this practice of foot washing with the early Hussites. It became a significant part of the so-called Radical Reformation of the 16th century, and "a number of smaller denominations that developed from out of this 'Left Wing of the Reformation' believed it to be an ordinance, citing 1 Timothy 5:10 in addition to John 13. The National Fellowship of Brethren Churches has developed quite a cogent theology and defense of it as an ordinance" [Zondervan's Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, p. 588]. "It is still practiced by some Protestant groups, including Brethren, Mennonites, Waldensians, Winebrennarians, and a few Baptists" [The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 630]. "The Anabaptists practiced footwashing as a symbol of washing in the blood of Christ and to impress the example of Christ's deep humiliation" [The Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 507]. The history of religion in the United States shows that foot washing was often one of the practices that strict "restorationists" of the first century church felt should be "restored" to the modern church. Thus, in various revivals among various groups across this young, developing nation there was a concerted effort to impose this practice as a binding "act of worship" upon the church. It rarely enjoyed much favor among the people, however, and usually lasted only so long as the revivalists remained in the area preaching their restorationist dogma.

The Example of Jesus

The central passage in this debate throughout history, aside from the single reference by the apostle Paul to the practice of early widows, is found in John 13, in which we discover Jesus, on the night of His arrest, washing the feet of the Twelve in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem. The time had come for Jesus to eat this final Passover meal with His disciples, and they were all gathered for this special event, during which Jesus would institute what is known as the Lord's Supper. It was at this time that He "rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded" [John 13:4-5]. The question has frequently been asked: Why did Jesus wash the feet of His disciples?! What purpose did He have in mind? What lessons did our Lord hope to convey to these men who were assembled with Him in this upper room? Was He instituting two "sacraments" that evening, with the Lord's Supper being the second? I believe the answers lie within the context of His actions, and in a proper perception of His subsequent statement to the Twelve.

We know from Luke 22:24 that one of the considerations uppermost in the minds of these disciples, even on such a special evening, was "which of them was regarded to be greatest." Indeed, "there arose a dispute among them" as to this question while they sat at the table with one another. This was not the first time these men had engaged in such pettiness. They had done this before [Matt. 18:1; Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46]. With such enormously "weighty matters" occupying their hearts and minds, a simple courtesy was entirely neglected. Although the water, towel and basin were in the room, no one had bothered to extend this courtesy. Indeed, for any one of these men to have taken the initiative in the extension of this common courtesy would have been an acknowledgement that he was thereby lesser than the others. Therefore, the water, the basin, and the towel sat there unused, a silent testimony to their rancorous wrangling over rank!

"This evening the disciples had been disputing which of them was the greatest, and consequently no one could stoop to do this menial office for the rest" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 815]. "None of the disciples was ready to volunteer for such a menial task, for each of them would have considered it an admission of inferiority to all the others" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 136]. "A dispute arose among the disciples at this time about which of them was the greatest. It may even be that they were quarreling among themselves about which of them should perform this service of foot washing for the others" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 333]. Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann observed, "There being no slave present, the office would naturally fall to the lot of the humblest in the little circle. But these men, far from feeling humility at this time, started a quarrel as to who should be accounted the greatest" [Popular Commentary of the Bible: The New Testament, vol. 1, p. 483].

The matter was settled, to the shame of those assembled, when Jesus Himself arose from the table and performed this service for the rest. The question of "Who is the greatest?" was then forever established. It was the One who became servant of all. Jesus had made this point previously during their times of argument over preeminence. On one occasion, Jesus had "called a little child to Himself and set him in their midst, and said, 'Truly I say to you, ... whoever humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven'" [Matt. 18:2-4]. In Mark 9:35 He called the Twelve over to Himself and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." In Luke 9:48 the Lord declared, "He who is least among you, this is the one who is great." Unfortunately, as with so many other truths conveyed to them by Christ, they just didn't "get it." It went in one ear and out the other. Thus, on His last night with them, they are still disputing over which of them was the greatest. Jesus answered the question one last time, and did so more dramatically than He ever had previously.

"Jesus presented Himself as the example of humble, loving service" [The Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 507]. David Lipscomb astutely observed, "If the Master could perform such acts for the servants, the servants should not object to doing it for one another" [A Commentary on the Gospel According to John, p. 211]. "Jesus appeared clothed quite like the slave or servant to whom the task of washing the feet of guests is assigned" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of John, p. 913]. His "is an example of true love, the love that is ready to render the lowliest kind of service to others" [ibid, p. 924]. "It was a voluntary humiliation that rebuked the pride of the disciples" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 136]. "Jesus portrayed for them the true nature of Christian living: serving one another" [ibid, p. 138]. When Jesus performed this service for His disciples, including Judas Iscariot (what a tremendous lesson that is for us!), this served as "a rebuke to their ambitious strife, far more powerful than words could have spoken; such a rebuke that never again do we see a hint of the old question, 'Who should be greatest?' It was Christ's answer to their unseemly conduct, and a lesson to those Christians 'who love the pre-eminence' for all time" [B.W. Johnson, The People's New Testament with Notes, p. 382]. Had the ancient rabbinic commentators on Ezekiel 16:9 bothered to listen more carefully to their own words, they might have seen a fulfillment in the action of Jesus. They wrote, "Among men, the slave washes his master, but with God it is not so!" Jesus was the Master, and yet He stooped to wash the feet of the disciples, even the feet of the one who was betraying Him.

"And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again, He said to them, 'Do you know what I have done to you?'" [John 13:12]. This seems like a strange question, doesn't it? What He had just done to them was quite apparent. He had washed their feet. No mystery there! But, this is not what Jesus was really asking. The disciples clearly understood the what of the event (their feet had been washed by Jesus), but did they understand the why of it?! That is the true question put before them that evening in Jerusalem! Jesus provides the answer for them -- "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them" [John 13:14-17].

The point Jesus sought to make is rather clear, at least on the surface -- they were to follow His example; they were to do unto one another what He had just done unto them. We sing a hymn written in 1885 by William A. Ogden titled "Where He Leads I'll Follow." One part of that beautiful hymn reads, "He the great example is, and pattern for me." Jesus is our example; our pattern. We are to walk in His steps, and take encouragement from our fellow disciples who are striving to do just that. Paul urged, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" [1 Cor. 11:1]. Jesus told the Twelve that fateful night, "I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you" [John 13:15]. I believe He expected them to follow that example. The fact that Paul mentions this as an action requisite to widows being "placed on the list," seems to indicate that this example was not just limited to the Twelve, but had application for all disciples. By extension, that would include even us today.

Few people would argue with this interpretation regarding extent of intent. Where the debate enters the picture is in determining what specifically constitutes the "example" of our Lord Jesus on this occasion. Was it the actual washing of feet itself, or was it that which the act represented?! Biblical scholars are divided over this, and the debate has been waged heatedly for centuries as to whether the binding aspects of His example are the physical or the spiritual ... or both. Let me just state for the record that I personally believe that which is binding is the deeper spiritual motivation of the heart, although the literal washing of feet may clearly be included as a non-binding method of visible expression. Simply put, it is my conviction that Jesus was binding upon His disciples (both then and now) the necessity to demonstrate humble, loving, sacrificial service unto one another. One way to demonstrate such service would certainly be foot washing, but it would only be one of many such evidentiary acts. If this view is true, as I believe, then foot washing itself may NOT be elevated to the status of a church ordinance or sacrament. It is the attitude of heart that motivates the action, not the action itself, that constitutes the "example" of our Lord.

A friend of mine, who has served for many years as a minister of the gospel here in New Mexico, made this observation in the Readers' Reflections section of my last issue --- "What is important is that we distill principles from the examples, and apply principles rather than specific patterns." As he so correctly pointed out, the binding of specific acts themselves as universal law is the "fundamental problem with patternistic thinking." In other words, they seek to bind the wrong thing. Foot washing is merely representative in nature; it is the shadow, not the substance. Any number of godly actions could quite easily fulfill the principle our Lord seeks to bind upon our hearts and lives. By seeking to bind the act itself upon our fellow disciples, and cloaking said act with an aura of authority and exclusivity, we only succeed in missing the whole point of the teaching of our Lord. Frankly, the legalistic patternists do this frequently with regard to the examples contained in Scripture, and therein lies one of the major causes of the many schisms that plague us today.

The Lord Jesus Christ clearly "commended His action as an example of the type of service the disciples should provide to each other" [Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 468]. "The command to do for each other what Christ had done for them ought not to be confined simply to washing feet. The ethical imperative calls for giving our lives in extravagant acts of selfless service. Footwashing is one expression of this" [The Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 507]. "Footwashing is here representative of humble acts of service" [ibid]. David Lipscomb was quite correct when he stated, "The principle taught in this by example was: let him that would be greatest be servant of all. There is nothing in this that could indicate a special ordinance or formal observance to be perpetuated in the church. To take these words as a command to establish the church ordinance of foot washing, as some have done, is to utterly miss the spirit of the whole scene, and the great lesson it was intended to convey" [A Commentary on the Gospel According to John, p. 210]. "The example of Jesus is to guide them in what they do for each other; it is not for mere mechanical repetition in washing of feet. Such rites belong to the Old Testament only ... the shadows are gone, the substance has come. No sacrament can be intended" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of John, p. 927]. "It is not the act itself, but its moral essence, which after His example He enjoins upon them to exercise" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 817].

"The purpose of His action was that they might act in the same humble, loving spirit, in all their conduct to one another" [ibid]. "The example does not necessarily imply the perpetuation of footwashing as an ordinance in the church. John calls this act an example, which implies that the emphasis is on the inner attitude of humble and voluntary service for others. Perhaps it was the basis for the Pauline exhortation to the Philippians in Philp. 2:5-8" [Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 137]. "Christ gave an example, not a church ordinance. It is our duty to follow the example and render the same kind of service to fellow Christians. To make His example a ceremonial and follow it literally would be to lose its spirit" [B.W. Johnson, The People's NT with Notes, p. 383]. "His example does not bind us to do His very act, but to carry the spirit of His act into all of our relations with brethren" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 17, part 2, p. 198].

Conclusion

Perhaps Lenski summed up the meaning behind foot washing best when he said, "The expression is figurative for rendering menial service; being not too proud to stoop" [Interpretation of First Timothy, p. 669]. Lenski further observes, "Whereas he who thinks himself great feels disgraced by a menial task rendered to those beneath him, the true disciple of Jesus regards such a task as a great opportunity and reaps from it the feeling of joy and honor, for the Lord's favor and commendation rest upon him while engaged in such service. In this sense Jesus says, 'blessed are you'" [Interpretation of John, p. 929].

For much of Christian history, far too many disciples of Jesus Christ have missed the simple message conveyed by Jesus in His selfless act of love. "In the early church, foot washing came to be practiced as a rite" [ISBE, vol. 2, p. 333]. It has been made an integral part of both baptism and the Lord's Supper, thus taking on the characteristics of a sacrament in some religious circles. Many have also sought to allegorize this action of Jesus. Some see the laying aside of the garments and then putting them on again as representative of our Lord laying down His life and then taking it up again [John 10:17-18]. The cleansing of the feet with water is viewed as an allegory of the cleansing He provides in His shed blood; His disciples being "washed in the blood of the Lamb." Those who take this view find support in the saying of Jesus in John 13:10, where He speaks of bathing and being clean. Thus, they additionally believe the cleansing power of this washing is a reference to baptism (which is why foot washing has been so closely associated with immersion throughout history).

In the final analysis, however, I am forced by my study and reflection to conclude that the example our Lord left for us was simply that we must cease our bickering and strife with our fellow disciples over who among us is the greatest, lay aside our pride, and simply serve one another with genuine love and humility. The Twelve were so consumed with who was better, who was higher, who was "righter," that they failed to extend even the most common courtesy to one another. Jesus shamed them by stooping before them as the lowliest of slaves. I think they probably got the message. Have WE?!! For those among us still consumed by factional feuding and sectarian squabbling; for those among us who want nothing to do with their fellow siblings, defaming and destroying them for daring to differ with their own personal preferences and perceptions; for those among us convinced that they alone have arrived, and all others are doomed digressives and abominable apostates ... perhaps some foot washing might be in order!! Healing will truly begin, and unity will be promoted, when some among us get off their thrones and take up a towel.

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Reflections on CD
www.zianet.com/maxey/offercd.htm
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Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

by Al Maxey
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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I just finished reading "The Law of Expediency" and a couple of thoughts came to mind regarding the notion that a kitchen in a church building is "sinful." First, it's a good thing that Christ fed His disciples outside on two separate occasions, otherwise He would have been condemned. Second, these legalistic brethren will build a room in their church buildings that is designed for the removal of human waste (which is declared "authorized"), but God help you if you eat a cookie in that same church building. My wife and I opened our own home for over a year (three times a week), and we had sometimes up to sixty brethren worshipping together with us in our home (many of whom were legalistic patternists). On numerous occasions, right after our worship, we would have a potluck meal, and, yes, they joined in. When the day came that we finally entered our new church building, however, they cried to the rafters: No food in the church building!! I stand amazed at these brethren!! We finally had to leave, as we could no longer tolerate it.

From a New Reader in Florida:

Bro. Maxey, I would love very much to be added to your mailing list for your weekly Reflections. My husband and I are very much into studying our Bibles, and we are currently looking for a new Church of Christ to attend here in the ------- area. We left the one we were part of. They were very hard-line. They actually teach, and bind, that women must wear stockings or hose, no sleeveless dresses or blouses, etc. There is much more too. We don't want to leave the church, but we have so many questions about all this. Perhaps you can be of help!

From an Elder in Texas:

Brother Maxey, With your approval I would like to copy the 2nd paragraph under the section "Loving Like Jesus" from your Reflections article on Judas Iscariot to put in our monthly church newsletter. [Naturally, I gladly gave my consent --- ahm]. Al, I continue to appreciate your scholarly and insightful articles. I just wish you didn't have to endure the aggravation of the "Axe At The Root" folks. But, I suppose anyone who stands up and declares his faith will have antagonists. Jesus did, and the servant is not greater than the Master, right?! Please continue your work, Al -- it benefits many people!

From a Reader in Indiana:

Bro. Al, You have done a wonderful job in telling the story of Rahab. It is always a treat to read what you have written! It is so evident that much thought goes into your work.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Could it be that how we feel about Rahab reveals more about us than it does about her? I enjoyed your treatise of this mystery woman who found herself in the lineage of Christ. Thank you!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I have been a reader of your Reflections for a good while, and have all of your CD's. I am nearly 66 years of age and have adopted an identity coined by someone -- "Recovering Pharisee." Thank you for challenging me to think. Al, please keep on keeping on!

From a Minister in Arkansas:

Brother Al, I must applaud you for a job well done on the life of Rahab. Thanks be to God for His wonderful grace. May God continue to bless you richly!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Al, It's been a while since I've written you, but I've still been reading all of your articles and I enjoy every one of them! I look forward every week to your articles. Last Sunday we had a guest speaker at our congregation who preached on God's grace and forgiveness, and how we are secure "in Christ." I could almost see the glow and relief on the faces of the congregation, since they have forever been given a steady diet of "legalistic patternism" here!

From a Youth Minister in Oklahoma:

Al, I was reading the responses in your latest article and the comments regarding the pitch pipe and tuning fork caught my eye. Maybe this is just me being ornery, but why would the legalists among us permit the use of a pitch pipe to set the pitch for a song (it is a "musical instrument," I would remind them), but would prohibit a woman on the front row from audibly giving the correct starting pitch to the male song leader with her voice (which would be a cappella)? Oh, the pits we fall into when we travel down the road of legalism! By the way, my new focus with my youth group for the last few months has been: "a deeper relationship with Jesus," rather than upon "rules for holy living." Maybe it will take the next generation of kids to show us how to really be Christians instead of just "playing church."

From a Minister in Oklahoma:

Dear Bro. Al, I love the Lord Jesus with all my heart and have willingly worn myself out in His service in spreading the Word, and I have determined to continue doing so, even against the advice of my doctors who want me to slow down and take it easy. Al, the one thing that hurts my heart even more than the physical problems with it is my deep grief over the fact that the church for which our Lord died is becoming more and more divisive, less and less loving, and more and more tradition bound rather than bound to His Word and image. Sometimes I have to wonder -- must I leave this group in order to find a band of true followers who are more devoted to genuine demonstrations of His love, shown in service to others, rather than in this endless arguing among ourselves? Must there be a termination of over 50 years of association with a group I have defended, just so I can find peace in simply loving and serving, rather than the constant bickering? I hope and pray "it ain't so," but it sure is looking like we are about to swallow up ourselves in our quest for being "legally right," rather than having our hearts right and being simply servants to our Lord and one another. Bro. Al, please keep up the good work in your Reflections as they truly encourage me to hang on and hope for better days ahead!

From a Reader in Florida:

Al, In your article on Rahab you provided the following quote: "The Haggadah mentions her as one of the four most beautiful women in the world, who had slept with most of the great men of her day" [Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 13, p. 1515]. Did you ever stop to think about this statement as it relates to why the spies went to her house? Perhaps she had far more political and military knowledge than we give her credit for? Why else would the king and his troops trust her and move on at her word?

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, I wish you could have visited our "Summer Spectacular" (VBS) here at Richland Hills Church of Christ this past June. The theme was "Joshua and the Battle of Jericho." The inside of all our buildings were covered with plastic sheets of rock walls, and real rocks were everywhere. Our classes taught all the material you covered in your Reflections article. After the classes we gathered in the auditorium for a musical drama of the story, followed by a visit to the camp of the Israelites and also the streets of Jericho in our Family Life Center. It lasted three nights, and on the final night they built Jericho in the parking lot with the walls 12' high (Rahab's window and all), made out of styrofoam blocks. The children, about 1500 of them, marched around the walls seven times and shouted. The walls all came tumbling down, and Rahab and all her family were rescued from the rubble. A great time was had by all, including about 1500 adults, while the story itself was forever sealed in the minds of everyone. It was a huge success. Our staff and volunteers worked for a year to prepare for this vivid memory lesson. By the way, "Rahab" was a doll, and was portrayed by one of our sweetest women at Richland Hills. She was the star of the show. There was heavy emphasis placed upon her act of courage and the great risk that she took. Thanks, Al, for your treatise on her in your last issue of Reflections.

From a Minister in Missouri:

Bro. Al, I thought your Reflections article on Rahab was very interesting and well-presented. It just so happened that a few hours before I received that latest issue in my inbox, my daily devotions had brought me to the book of Joshua. It amazes me how often your newest issue of Reflections relates to something that I had read or studied earlier that very day. Are you spying on me?! Here's something you might find interesting. A wonderful scholar, and also a brother in Christ, named James D. Orten (who has recently been given just months to live), wrote a wonderful book called "Understanding The Old Testament." On page 189 he writes, "The spies looked over the city and lodged in the house of a harlot named Rahab. Some Christians are offended by the spies' choice of a place to stay in Jericho, but they need not be. In that idolatrous society, prostitution was a respectable occupation, and their houses were often the nearest things to hotels to be found. The choice was also a good one for strategic reasons. By this time the people of Jericho understood Israel's intent, so they were wary of strangers. A harlot's house was the least suspicious place they could go."

Bro. Al, I also read your article regarding your role as the state appointed chaplain at the last execution to take place in New Mexico [Reflections #17]. Absolutely amazing! I can only imagine what was going through your head from the time you first stepped foot into that prison until the time our brother breathed his last breath with you by his side. I know that must have been quite a remarkable experience that you will never forget!

From a New Reader in Texas:

Brother Maxey, I am a believer from Texas. Please add me to your list of subscribers. I've read several of your Reflections articles and appreciate the spirit and scholarship with which you write. Thanks for your work!

From a Reader in Florida:

Al, Your article on "Jezebel of Jericho" was very interesting. You are doing a good job! I took a look at your congregation's web site last night --- Cuba Avenue Church of Christ --- and it is very interesting. It looks like you have a lot of love for one another there. It is really good to see pictures of the members of Cuba Avenue spending quality time with each other outside of the "worship service." Brother Al, so many of us thank God for you and your work!!

From an Elder in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, As I have told you before, I really appreciate your thinking, research and writing. God has blessed you, and most of the rest of us are jealous!! May God continue to bless you, and may He give you many more years of research, thinking, insight, writing and especially love to those who are enslaved in legalism and sin.

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, May God give you strength, courage and time to continue the work of Jesus in challenging legalistic traditions. Keep on keeping on!

From a Reader in Alabama:

One thing that can certainly be said about your writing is that you are consistent -- you consistently demonstrate you know nothing of which you speak. The only thing more appalling than your woeful lack of Bible knowledge are the pitiful souls you are leading astray.

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