So, I’ve “officially” been dating my amazing girlfriend for a week now. It’s been absolutely brilliant, as well as the two months of getting to know each other prior to making things Facebook official and opening ourselves up to all the Likes, Comments, and questions. My former home group leader and his wife had a baby within the past few days and they told me to bring my girlfriend when I came to visit them. So, naturally I was excited about all of that, but then I realized that my girlfriend and I would most likely meet up at my place. Meaning she would see my place for the first time. That’s when I did what any man who had been single for a year would do: Panic, and then clean everything.
Somehow, I got a bit nostalgic as I was cleaning, or maybe I just remembered hating to clean when I was a kid. See, I hated getting dirty, at least as I grew older. Sure, I’d go walking in the woods at my grandparents farm and get all kinds of stuff on me. I’d play in the sandbox as a kid. But I was also that weird kid who didn’t really like going to the beach because he didn’t want sand between his toes. Fortunately, I grew up in Dallas so going to the beach wasn’t really much of a concern, except for the short period of time we lived in Boston for my dad’s job when I was a kid.
Being one who doesn’t want to get dirty, you can imagine how much I hated cleaning the bathroom. I remember trying to do anything I could to avoid getting my hands dirty. I’d use the toilet brush with the long handle so my hands wouldn’t have to touch the water in the toilet bowl. Regardless of how bad the stains were, I’d do what I could without getting dirty and was content to leave any residue for someone else to clean the next week. The thing I realized today is that doing this is absolutely ineffective. Sometimes to actually really clean something you can’t be afraid of getting dirt and grime on you.
Yet that’s how so many of us approach the Christian life and ministry. We’ll see someone hurting and we’ll do what we can from a distance. We’ll ask if they’re ok (ummm, if you have to ask, they aren’t). We’ll say a quick prayer for them. We might even go as far as asking them how ________ has been when we see them the following week. But we don’t get close. We try to be ministers of reconciliation from afar, instead of coming in close, wading into the muck and mire of another’s life, and bearing their burdens with them (Gal. 6:2).
And we wonder why so many who come to Christ and the Church to find hope and healing feel just as burdened as when they first walked in the door. To be sure, the gospel provides the power to resist sin and keep God’s commands as much as it gives us grace for when we fail. God can absolutely set a person free with but a word, yet He most often chooses to use men and women who follow Jesus as the means of implementing this freedom. He often chooses to give us the grace of the harder path rather that the luxury of the easy road.
When Jesus gave us the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) he didn’t just say to go preach and teach, though that is an essential and integral part of it. He didn’t just say to baptize people who confessed Christ, though that is absolutely important as well. He said to make disciples. He said to be closely involved in the lives of other believers, particularly in the lives of less mature believers. He said to help them grow.
He said to get your hands dirty.