I know what you’re thinking: why was I eavesdropping? Better question: why were they so very loud? Anyway, this was all going down at Panera and while they were discussing this, I spilled some soup on my shirt. Which would be ironic if I didn’t get my clothes visibly dirty almost every day. I’ve rarely been faced with the conundrum of whether a shirt I’ve already worn is still clean. Nope, it’s got food or dirt or coffee on it and it goes in the hamper at the end of the day.
I’ve heard stories of women wearing paper clothing in the ‘60s and I’ve seen examples of some of these dresses still around today, in thrift stores and such. These women must have been a lot more careful/less clumsy than me or those would have all been one-use garments. I thank the giver of all good gifts for the advent of the washer-dryer, which means my clothes can be clean again each time I dirty them (unless I get paint or grease or permanent ink on them, which I do frequently enough).
This (the staining and washing of clothes) is a picture that Scripture uses rather frequently: us staining our clean linen robes (which represent righteousness) with our impossible-to-extract stains. We do it every day, and there’s no detergent offered by man that can make us clean. Only the blood of our Savior can remove the stain of sin and replace it with the perfect righteousness of Christ. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Is 1:17)
And that’s great news! We’re new creatures—we’ve been made new and we’re being made new. Christ took on our sin-stained robe at the cross and gave us his perfectly-clean and spotless robe in exchange. Which is great . . . until we stain the new one. And that’s the challenge and the tension of the Christian life, isn’t it?
We know that we are removed from sin (as far as the east is from the west, according to the Bible), and yet we remain sinners. We are wearing white robes, and yet we stain them every day. Even our worship and service is stained by sin. And when we repent of it, even our repentance is contaminated by yet more sin! According to the prophet Isaiah, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags” (64:6).
Have you ever had a child offer a selfish, transparently false apology, just because they were ordered to or they knew they had to in order to stave off punishment? Kids aren’t great at faking sincerity, so you can usually see right through them. Ever had someone thank you for the ...er...interesting meal you made them? (Translation: “nice effort, but I wouldn’t feed that to my dog.”) Yeah, our prayers are tainted with that same selfishness (and we're all the more unable to mask it when addressing a God who sees our hearts), and yet He hears or prayers, accepts them, and moves his arm to answer them! Not to be polite, not because it's easier to just overlook the stench of sin (a Holy God could never do that), but because his Son Jesus mediates on our behalf. The Holy Spirit within us directs our praise and prayers toward heaven and there the son removes the stains of sin and presents them perfectly pure and holy to God.
Yes, we stain our robes, but his mercies are new every morning in washing them, even as we find ourselves being made more and more like him. In a sense, Christians are like construction zones (although I’m sure the Holy Spirit would never use those annoying orange barrels), in that you can see what’s being created more and more until the day arrives that the project is complete and we enter into His presence.
Yes, sin still lives in us, but it isn't exactly living in us. It's dying in us. Not much longer and it will be dead and gone forever—a fading memory in our past, while the present and future are filled only with Christ.