Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Perfect Reference Point

I am a laundry fanatic. I buy the best detergent money can buy, use bleach or a non-bleach booster, and attack every stain I notice. I sniff the clean fragrance with enjoyment as I take freshly washed clothes out of the dryer. When my children were little, they could challenge the most earnest of laundresses. I took that challenge.

My children loved to dig in the dirt. We live in Maryland, so that meant red clay-stained clothing. White socks were especially difficult to get clean. But I was one determined lady. As I laid their newly laundered, paired and folded socks away in their drawers, I gained much satisfaction to seeing how clean they had once again become.

But I was in denial. I discovered this every time I purchased new socks. As I laid new pairs of soft, brilliant white socks next to the old ones, I realized what I thought was clean was actually dingy and stained. I discovered that my perception of clean had become warped over time. It was because I had a faulty reference point in my comparison. I was comparing the old socks to each other. “Clean” had become only relative.

We are often guilty of using a faulty reference point when we evaluate our lives. Yes, I sin on occasion. But I don’t sin as much as her. We carefully pick people who seem to be “worse” than we are while doing a self-examination. But our reference point is off.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

When Isaiah was given a vision of God in His heavenly temple, he was suddenly very clear about his own inadequacy. “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) Whatever feelings Isaiah might have had about being a good man, faithful servant, or obedient prophet were wiped out when the reality of God’s holiness was revealed to him. Like old, used socks, he understood his sinfulness in a way he never before had. Suddenly those around him that he might have used as a reference point were revealed for what they were: sinful, faulty people.

Later on, Isaiah expressed his new, vastly improved reference point when he wrote: “All of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” He understood the futility of trying to claim righteousness by his good deeds. Even the best of what we can accomplish cannot not stand up to the reference point of God’s holiness.

So what can we do? Nothing. It is why the Savior had to come, to rescue us from our hopeless state. Our righteousness can never be what we have earned. Because we could never do enough or do it well enough to earn it. Instead, by God’s grace, we are given righteousness through Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross.

Only a righteousness that is God-given could stand up to the reference point of the holiness of God. In His sight, we are made holy as He is holy, declared innocent of all sin. No more filthy garment, no more old, gently used socks.


Elizabeth said...

This stood out to me because I doing my laundry at a laundromat in the middle of nowhere, New Hampshire, thinking of you. I'm using the best detergent money can buy. Like mother, like daughter. :)

Julie Coleman said...

Good girl, Mel. Keep those whites white and those colors bright.

Kim said...

i am so thankful for your blog!