“A bowl of cherries is ruined by the presence of one cockroach, but a single cherry does not improve the allure of a colony of cockroaches. It is always easier to make something disgusting than beautiful.” The podcast host continued to describe the psychological roots of disgust; What makes things tainted or impure?
I realized that this motif is true pretty much across the board. There is nothing beautiful or pure which is not immediately ruined by the presence of something gross. An entire meal is ruined when someone finds a minuscule hair (and hair is also ruined with a little bit of food in it). A pinch of dirt ruins a perfectly white counter top, but a pinch of white countertop doesn’t cleanse a whole field of mud.
And a hint of sin ruins an otherwise beautiful and whole relationship between God and His people.
Add all the good deeds you want to the heaping pile of lusts, crooked desires and hateful thoughts, and you’re left with more or less the same thing. And I think that’s where people start to go astray in their thinking: when they think that adding more “good” to their thoughts, actions and words will actually make a difference in the overall quality of their soul.
All they’re doing is adding more cherries to the infestation of cockroaches, hoping it will look more appealing.
And we’re all guilty of it, right? This is why we strive to be good people (as vacuous a term as that is), and beat ourselves up when we fail. So then the question becomes, What would Christ have us do? And I can’t help but wonder if realization and acknowledgment is key. You start out by agreeing that you are utterly incapable of cleaning yourself up, but accepting that Someone has loved you enough to do it for you.
Tim Keller summed it up succinctly: “The Gospel is the realization that you are more sinful than you ever dared imagine, and more loved than you ever dared hope.”
Today, Good Friday, we recognize that the Ultimate Good has moved in and lived among us. Today, we can acknowledge that we are the collection of cockroaches, but there is hope because we have met something SO good and beautiful that it cannot be tainted by us.
Rather, not an ‘it’ but a ‘He.’
of Christ are strong enough to move into the unclean and clean it, rather than become contaminated by it. We are the unclean; we are the pile, the infestation, in need of restoration. You add anything else to your heaping tower of sin and I promise you, it will just be lost in the swirl and ruined by it. No amount of good deeds, donations, kind words of encouragement, or community service can make clean what you have made broken (And yes, I mean you, as we are all participants in the destruction of our own lives and our world).
There is no good thing you can add to a pile of manure to make it good.
This is why we confess that Christ, who knew no sin, became sin; taking it up into Himself that it may be destroyed once and for all. He didn’t just polish the pile of feces; He destroyed it Himself and instead gave us something wholly beautiful, clean, and pure.
Nothing else would suffice.
Today we recognize and remember the utter destruction of our sin and shame in the Man, Jesus Christ from Nazareth (A crap hole of a town…”What good can come from Nazareth??” they used to say) as He nailed it to a tree.
It was taken up in Him so that we may live forever in Him.
The divine exchange.
The felix culpa: The fortunate fault.
The only hope of being washed and made new.
So the question falls to you, my friend: Will you acknowledge that your life is un-cleanable without help more powerful than yourself? Will you agree that adding your own measures of ‘good’ is as useful as putting a rose on a city dump?
And will you accept the gift given today: The cup of Christ, which He drank down to the final, painful dregs, in order that we may be made clean? That we may not even bear a trace of our former contamination, returning to full, unbroken relationship with Him?
Come, be cleaned.
We don’t know each other and I honest am not sure how I came to be connected with you blog originally. But for whatever reason I signed up to receive your posts. I think – I like the way you share these messages.
I’m a believer but somewhat indifferent to church culture. I love God but have found it hard to reconcile parts of my life.
Keep communicating in your way. It is refreshing.
Thanks, Ray Sullivan
Thank you Ethan!
Jesus used the term “white-washed tombs,” which described the image of rotting, festering, dead flesh behind a facade of clean new paint. Kind of like whipped cream on a pile of steaming dung.
Gross. It’s what I am. I’ve made many mistakes, I’ve tried to clean myself up. I’ve stripped off the white wash, (you won’t see a Shiny Happy Christian here.) I’ve tried to carry away some of my rotting, festering fleshiness, (you won’t see me participate in some of the darkness, which was formerly my world.) I’ve tried to uproot and dig out my sinfulness, but it seems to exist and even thrive at every freshly exposed level of my being.
Even when I attempt to make myself dead to my sin, more sinfulness seems to sprout around the edges. In my own power, I’m always edging my deadness.
So, yes I see the futility in trusting my ugly mess to become something that it’s not. I see that I will always “bear a trace of my former contamination.” I see that Jesus is the only breaker of this cycle, he is the only hope to be clean and beautiful again, he is the only hope for salvation… “to return to full unbroken relationship” with God the Father.
Jesus, let me walk with you, make me clean.
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