“Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.” ~Saint Teresa of Avila
I posted the quote above as my Facebook status one day last week and was interested to see how many people responded positively to it. Since then, I have been thinking about what it means to be Christ’s hands and feet on earth. Clearly, this idea resonates with people, but how do we go about doing it?
It seems to me that we might begin to “be” Christ’s hands and feet by considering how Jesus used his hands and feet while He was walking among us. Jesus, God Incarnate, lived on earth in human form and, before He returned to the Father, promised that we who had faith in Him would do “greater things than these.” (John 14:12) Through the writers of scripture, we have a record of the way Jesus lived out His earthly existence and these stories offer us clues on how we might continue His work.
First, Jesus knew that He had to spend time with the Father in order to know where to go and what to do next. Throughout the gospels, we hear that Jesus often “withdrew to a solitary place” in order to hear from His Heavenly Father. Jesus says this in John 5:19 (the Message):
I’m telling you this straight. The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what He sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes Him in everything He is doing.
If Jesus needed down time with His Father, how much more must that apply to us? I have found that even my most well-intentioned attempts to do God’s will are useless unless I regularly “withdraw to a solitary place” to listen to my Father. Through time in His word, sharing my heart in prayer AND being still enough to listen, I begin to see the path God has for me to get involved in what He is doing in my little part of His world. Without that time, I find that I am often tilting at windmills.
Secondly, Jesus was willing to be interrupted as He went about the work the Father had given Him to do. Most of the accounts that we have of Jesus interacting with people and performing miracles begin with a phrase like “as Jesus went on from there.” He was often traveling to another destination when someone approached Him in need of healing. While His disciples often tried to discourage or deter these seekers, Jesus always had time for the people who crossed His path. Jesus was all about relationship. In these instances, He made the choice to stop and offer healing and care to the persons involved. Because He was not overly tied to His agenda of the moment, He could attend to the higher purposes for which He was sent. In our own lives, we similarly have the choice to view the unexpected, the unplanned and the inconvenient interruptions we encounter as precious opportunities for ministry….divine appointments to realize our own role in bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven.
Third, Jesus was willing to get His hands dirty. One of my favorite stories about Jesus was the time He chose to wash the feet of His disciples in order to teach them about being a servant. In their culture, washing dirty feet was the lowliest of jobs, yet Jesus got on His knees and tenderly washed and dried the dust-covered feet of those He loved most and then entreated them to do the same in His name. In fact, He said clearly in John 13:15 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” As I seek to find the “important” work that I can do in God’s Kingdom, I sometimes overlook the opportunities for smaller acts of service…acts that become holy when done from a place of love and grace and gratitude. Life is messy. People are complicated. Getting our hands dirty; literally or figuratively, requires a willingness to get involved in the middle of the mess and complications. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus has called us to do. I have written on this before and I quoted this song from Michael Card in its entirety. Here is my favorite part:
And the space between ourselves sometimes
is more than the distance between the stars.
By the fragile bridge of the Servant’s bow
we take up the basin and the towel.
Finally, if we are to truly become Jesus’ hands and feet, we must share His love for “the least of these.” This is the hard part of the gospel message for us sometimes. Jesus was revolutionary in His approach to the downtrodden and forgotten in His society. He touched lepers, He welcomed women and children, He dined with criminals, He championed the poor, He defended the powerless. Jesus spent His time on earth with the hated and the outcasts and claimed that He had come to “preach good news to the poor.” There are a number of examples of this in scripture. Here are just a few:
- He tells of a rich man and a poor one, and how the poor man goes to heaven and the rich man doesn’t.(Luke 16:19-31)
- He tells of others who’ll be surprised they didn’t get into paradise because they didn’t take care of Him when He was hungry or in prison. They object that they never saw Him that way; He replies that whenever they neglected the hungry or imprisoned or unclothed, they neglected Him (Matthew 25.)
- He says it’s harder for a rich person to enter heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle. He tells a rich man only one thing is between him and the Kingdom: he needs to sell what he has and give it to the poor (Mark 10:17-31.)
While Jesus came to reconcile us ALL to the Father, He is clear that He expects us to take care of one another and to begin with “the least of these.” God does not call all of us to sell everything we have and give it all to the poor, but He does call us to get involved and allow Him to show us how. If I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, I have to open my eyes to the suffering in the world and allow my heart to be broken by those things that break the heart of the Father. Because there is so much brokenness in our world, I can become overwhelmed by the need and throw my hands up in despair. I recently read a book that addressed these issues in a profound way and gave me hope for the Church. Please read it, if this topic tugs at your heart. It is called The Hole in Our Gospel. Bottom line: we each can make a difference and it matters that we try…God is at work in the world and we can be part of it. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus in our part of the world…what a privilege!
Peter Venter says
This is precisely the legacy that Jesus left us. The same legacy he gave his disciples. ‘..go therefore, make disciples of all nations;….teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.'(Matt.28:19-20) What Jesus is saying to us is ‘Love as I have loved you; Touch as I have touched you; listen as I have listened to all your concerns. Visit the sick, the lonely and the bereaved. In our parish we have a ministry of care that meet the needs of those who suffer; spiritually, mentally and physically.
Steve Gardner says
I want to thank you for bringing the quote of Saint Teresa to my attention. I don’t know if that is where the phrase “We are the hands and feet of Jesus” came from but it does contain the sentiment that I have grown concerned about in our churches today. I agree with the statement “We are arms and feet of Jesus,” but do not agree with the phrase, “We are the arms and feet of Jesus,” which carries with it the conotation that if we do not do it, Christ is unable to get it done. Christ is not limited to our abilities, desires or hang-ups. Scripture is replete with stories of how God worked miraculously to intervene when his people were unable or unwilling to work. That is why faith and prayer are so important to our lives as believers. Christ will allow us to be as busy and tired as we want to be. He allowed that in the life of Martha while commending Mary for having chosen a less frenetic path. So, yes, we need to be diligent servants of Christ, doing His bidding with hearts filled with gratitude, but let us keep trusting that He will do amazingly over and above what our meager combined energies and resources may accomplish. May He bless you as you continue to encourage and strengthen His bride.
Jeanine Fuentes Bedell says
God Timing! I am researching material for a lesson I am preaching on tomorrow for our middle and high school students and I too am pulling from inspirations from the Hole in our Gospel. I copied and pasted the majority of your blog to read aloud tomorrow! Thank you so much for posting such a true account of how we are to go about being the hands and feet of Jesus.