Pastor Steve Schantz
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Attached to the outside plastic wrapping around an absolutely beautiful box of strawberries out of Watsonville, CA was this instruction: Wash Before Using. The packaging company had also prepared for this container to cross the Canadian border, because the same guideline was also written in French: Laver Avant Usage. (Somewhere my high school French teacher is smiling.)
Right now you and I are being extra careful to ‘se laver les mains’ (wash our hands) every time we’ve been in public. We do this in the hope of removing any visible or invisible health threat.
When we got these deep red giants home we gave them a delicate but thorough washing. Yum…they actually tasted as good as they looked! And with fingers stained red we smiled in two languages.
During Lent, we take a deeper look at how our human conscience has been stained by sin. Healthy people have some concept of guilt, and some retain the pang of guilt more than others. C.S. Lewis addressed this proclivity decades ago in his famous Mere Christianity.
Theologians and pastors alike consider how our sense of guilt may be one evidence that we were made to relate at the conscious level to a good Creator. Long ago, we messed with the image of God given to us, and so we struggle with sin as damaged goods. When God shows his love for us in Christ, something happens in our conscience that begins to address our problem at the deepest level. The Spirit who is God works on our human conscience to unveil who and what our loving Father is like, through His Son, and by His Spirit. When He does this work, we begin to appreciate who we were meant to be before the stain of sin.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
The condemning conscience can serve a short term benefit, but it’s not meant to be our normal state of mind. The truth will set us free, not chain us to guilt. In a similar way, our sense of touch serves us well by reminding us that touching a hot stove regularly is not a good idea. When illumined by the Spirit, our conscience is sensitive to our own tenacious bent for self-destructive thinking and acting (aka SIN).
Yet through the Spirit’s work in our lives, we also become conscious of the creator God who has always loved us and has hastened to meet us in our need. He grants us repentance – a change of heart and mind – toward who He is and what we are here for. He cleans us up and moves us toward his good purposes in the world. The washing part actually took place a long time ago in the baptismal cross of Christ. As Paul reminds us in Romans chapter 6, we were baptized into Christ, and His cleansing of spiritual dirt through his suffering and death remains personally applicable to you and me. The person of Jesus, the Second Adam, now lifts us up into his life with the Father and through the Spirit. What was very good in the early chapters of Genesis now becomes permanently good through the life, death, and resurrection of the only One who is truly God and truly human.
God loves you. Think of that! He loves and participates with His creation – you and I. God is not an anti-matter being in the sky – aloof, distant, and indifferent. In fact, just the opposite is true. He came to live, and to die, and to be resurrected for us because He wants us to be free to serve him and love him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Like the Father of the prodigal, our Heavenly Father beckons us to a well-prepared feast. Of course, He washes us up first, doing something for us that we could never do for ourselves. Then He invites us to share life with him – unending! He enjoys living in and with His people. This is not a God made with human hands, but He is the God who donned a pair of hands, opposable thumbs and all. So go ahead and enjoy a big bowl of strawberries this spring – wash them first of course – and then share them with someone special.