How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
-Romans 10:14-15 (NIV)
In Romans 10, the missionary Paul pleads for his readers to understand how vital the saving message of the gospel is. Paul then lays out a series of rhetorical questions that show the events that must play out in order for one to ultimately believe in Jesus. Oddly however, Paul doesn’t commend the speaker’s words, mouth, lips nor tongue. Instead, he says it’s the feet that are worthy of the recognition. Specifically, Paul says those feet are beautiful.
Even in today’s clean-freak society, “beautiful feet” doesn’t translate well. Feet are still kind of off limits as far as the body goes. To some people, even the mere thought of touching someone’s feet makes them cringe. It doesn’t matter if it’s their significant other or their children… There ain’t no way they are getting near those things! There’s even a name for it — podophobia, the fear of feet.
As gross as feet are thought of today, in Paul’s culture they were viewed far worse. We have to remember that this was during a time in history where the primary means of travel was by foot. And the roads weren’t paved. And they’re located in the Middle East.
So within the context of these verses you have dirt roads in a desert climate being traveled by folks in sandals. Not exactly an ideal setting for one’s feet. I don’t want to get graphic with you (OK, yeah I do), but we’re talking feet covered with cuts, scabs, blisters, calluses, sweat, mud, and dust. And don’t get me started on their toenails… Can you imagine? Yikes! You couldn’t just stroll into your local strip mall and get a pedi with a sea salt scrub anytime you wanted.
Let’s be honest — feet can be pretty nasty. Then and now, they are generally anything but beautiful.
That’s why it’s so interesting that Paul chose arguably the most disgusting part of the body and described them in a way no one ever had before. Despite everything wrong it had going for it, in the end the feet are what carried the message of Jesus. All the charisma, intellect and eloquent dialogue in the world is for naught if isn’t actually taken somewhere to be shared. True to his form, God shows that his primary concern is willful obedience. The domino effect of salvation begin with a single, literal step. Because of that, it’s those “icky” feet that Paul says deserve the praise and attention.
Or better yet, I suppose you could summarize the thought this way: anything that brings a good thing is a beautiful thing.
And really, that’s a picture of the gospel, isn’t it? The broken made new. The worthless redeemed. The ugly made beautiful.
The Good News really is that good.