Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.” (Jn. 13:10, NRSV)
Jesus was making a spiritual point when He said these words to Peter. He points out that there are two kinds of cleansing. The first comes at salvation, “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” as Paul describes it in Titus 3:5. It’s a thorough bath, as it were, that cleanses us completely and makes us acceptable to God. We participate in this when we first put our trust in Jesus and ask Him to forgive us and make us new inside.
After that, however, we still get dirt on us from time to time. In fact, most of us, most days, will say, do, and think things that get us dirty again. Jesus lets us know that although one “bath” won’t keep us clean for a life-time, there is provision for those daily mud puddles we slosh through. We don’t have to go through baptism or another faith-initiation procedure again, but we do need to ask for forgiveness and cleansing.
Some Christian traditions do better with this than others. Some make a practice of confessing their sins to a priest at regular intervals. Some pray the Lord’s Prayer every day, which, if done sincerely, automatically leads into a time of asking for forgiveness for sins committed. But some of us have a more free-form faith; asking forgiveness may not be something we think about as often as we need to. Our feet may be really dirty and in need of a good washing.
The Lenten season is the perfect time to make a practice of asking the Holy Spirit to point out where you’ve gotten dirty as you’ve walked through life. Perhaps once a day you could check in with Him and ask what actions or reactions, words or thoughts have fallen short of the life of love and purity Jesus has called you to. When He brings something to mind, don’t beat up yourself over it. This is not about a guilt trip. Simply confess it as wrong, tell Him you’re sorry, and ask Him to cleanse you. Next, ask Him if there’s anything else you should know or do (He might tell you how to avoid that sin in the future, or ask you to make things right with someone you hurt). Then thank God for making you clean again—and enjoy the freedom and lightness you will feel!