The Sandals of the Gospel of Peace
Open Your Bible
Ephesians 6:10-20, Isaiah 52:7, Isaiah 9:2-7, Isaiah 26:1-9, Nahum 1:15, John 16:31-33, Romans 10:14-17
Roman sandals, made from a leather sole and straps, could be worn for marching or fighting, and were embedded with materials for enhanced traction. Roman soldiers may have worn studded boots instead of sandals. These durable shoes communicate not only a readiness to carry the gospel forth, but also to communicate the peace the gospel brings.
In the context of the Bible, “beautiful feet” is a bit of an oxymoron. The average ancient Near Eastern person wore sandals, walked on dirt roads, and almost exclusively traveled by foot, which had to have made for some pretty gnarly looking toes. Let’s not even get started on their toenails! Feet would have been a whole situation, which is why this term is so striking. Feet were, quite arguably, the ugliest and most abused part of the body. Why, then, did Isaiah not opt for “how beautiful the face,” or how beautiful “the person” (Isaiah 52:7)? Why such an unlikely, provocative word picture?
We honestly cannot know the answer for sure, but perhaps it’s meant to underscore the beautiful brilliance of truly good news. Consider, for example, the sight of the American soldiers who first arrived at the German concentration camps in 1945. These liberators were tired, haggard, bloody, and bruised. They were probably not looking their best. And yet, they must have appeared beautiful to the tortured prisoners who saw them. Consider also the sight of the first rescue worker who descended into the Chilean mine collapse in 2010. Thirty-three miners were trapped underground for 69 days, and their fate remained uncertain while rescue crews worked around the clock to save them. The first rescue worker to finally reach them was lowered over two thousand feet down a narrow tube, wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and a white hard hat. Those miners had probably never seen anything more beautiful.
This is the kind of beauty that Isaiah is describing in Isaiah 52:7. A beauty that transcends outward appearance, because it is the beauty of rescue. The beauty of hope. The beauty of declaring that all is not lost. When the good news is that rapturous, that overwhelmingly wonderful, one cannot help but be dazzled by the beautiful feet that delivered it.
It is this particular beauty that is meant to clothe the disciples of Jesus, since we are bearers of the best news of all. And so, both Isaiah 52:7 and Ephesians 6:15 leave us with an important, searching question: Is our faith beautiful in this way?
How would our co-workers describe our faith? Our siblings? Our children? The strangers who encounter us online? Is our tone and conduct delivering bad news, simply by how we treat others? Or, is our presence, our posture, and our message to the scared and hurting world around us, beautiful?