Releasing the Toxins
Every cleansing process produces waste. The dirt on your clothes and dishes goes down the drain and ends up in a treatment plant. Medical supplies in a hospital are quarantined in separate containers and managed carefully to avoid the spread of disease.
I live by a river that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Some of the sewer drains in our community have little fish emblems painted on them to remind us to be careful with toxins. What goes down the drain ends up somewhere.
So what happens to the dross that emerges when Jesus purifies us through His truth? We want to live organically so more of Jesus can shine through our lives, but what happens to our bad attitudes and behaviors in the process? Perhaps I am carrying the organic metaphor too far, but I feel the question must be asked. Maybe the answer is as simple as saying our old life is being crucified daily on the cross we have taken up in the name of Christ. But I sense things are a bit more complex.
Do you remember how the Pharisees in Jesus’ day removed toxins from their lives? In Matthew 23 Jesus exposed their practice of pronouncing themselves pure and condemning others. They wanted to be praised for their righteousness (Matthew 23:5), and masterfully crafted a holy life that looked righteous on the outside, but inside was full of “dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). The Pharisees were forever concerned about distancing themselves from pollutants, but their hearts were filled with “greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25) and in the end they only distanced themselves from the people who needed God most.
When we are confronted with truth we can react in a number of ways. We can defend our honor by denying responsibility for our actions, blame other people for our troubles, or pretend we are something we are not. Not only are these options dishonest, but they also keep us from the kind of change we should be experiencing when we take Jesus’ teachings to heart.
After Jesus shared His Beatitudes He made two parabolic statements. Those who follow Him are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. But if salt loses its saltiness and light is hidden from view, what good are they? In other words, when our idea of righteousness is devoid of real transformation, it is difficult to point the way to God. It is hard to reflect the 100% Jesus of the Bible when we have merely rearranged the toxins in our lives to make us look better. How, then, do we properly dispose of those things in our lives that obscure our Lord? What can we do to insure the purity we embrace is more than a show?