Overboard On Cleaning Up
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"The Mad Cleaning Man" - that's one of the nicknames affectionately given to me by my family. And I've worked pretty hard to earn that name. Let's put it this way, I hate clutter. I'm not the neatest guy in the world, but I can only function so long when mess is building up around me, you know? So, often without warning, I will go on a straightening rampage. And what's the best way to keep from having to pick something up again? Right! You throw it away! Oh, yeah, I look at things before I trash them. You should know that. I'm not irresponsible. But over the years, a family member will walk into a room that was messy when they left but had since had my magic touch. And they'll say "Oh no! Dad's been at it again." Which may be followed by cries of frustration as they look for some item, "Dad, where's my such-and-such? It was right here!" Then they see the glazed eyes of "The Mad Cleaning Man" and they give up asking. Cleaning up is good, right? But it can be irritating.
You can be that way with a house. You can be that way with people. Trying to clean them up, that is. Our word for today from the Word of God comes from 2 Corinthians 5:17. And it starts with this exciting news: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" When Jesus comes into a person's life a wonderful transformation begins. The old person we were when we were outside of Christ starts to disappear, and we start becoming the new person Jesus can make us when we are "in Christ." Cleaned up by Jesus Christ.
Now the passage goes on to tell us that God has reconciled people to Himself through Christ's forgiveness and that "He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors." In other words, God is counting on you to let people know how to have peace with Him through Jesus. That's our mission - bringing a lost person together with their Savior. Not cleaning them up. Jesus said we're fishers of men. And every fisherman knows you've got to catch them before you clean them!
But sometimes we approach lost people like "The Mad Cleaning Man" approaches our house, "must get you cleaned up." And it alienates the very people we are trying to tell about God's amazing grace. In a blatantly sinful and godless culture, we see more and more behaviors that aggravate us, and offend us, and anger us. We're really bothered by their sexual immorality, their language, the things they talk about, the things they joke about, or their disregard of one or another of God's commandments. And that should bother us. And while we want them to begin a relationship with Jesus, we also want to clean up their act!
But it's a mistake to try to clean people up before they have the Cleaner-Upper! 2 Corinthians 5:17 doesn't say that they will be in Christ when they become a new creation. It says they will become a new creation when they're finally in Christ! We need to be stressing relationship, not reform. The message of reconciliation God has trusted to us is all about Jesus! People sin because they're sinners, and they will be sinners until they know the Savior! So stick to Jesus and stick to His cross, and don't encumber that simple Gospel with an attempt to clean up their lifestyle.
I've found that my cleanup efforts at home have all too often created aggravation and irritation. Sometimes our spiritual cleanup efforts may have the same effect. Even as a parent or spiritual mentor, we may have gotten hung up on someone's deeds rather than their needs or on correcting their behavior which can build walls, instead of building our relationship which builds bridges.
Oh yes, cleaning up is an important part of coming to Christ - repentance. But Jesus does the cleaning from the inside out. Cleaning them up is not my job. Introducing them to the Cleaner-Upper - that's my job!
Learn three secrets to loving what you do from Ron Hutchcraft's message, "How to Love Your Job No Matter What." This complimentary CD provides new perspective on how your boss, your pay, and your hard work can help you love your job.