"Many of us believe that wrongs aren't wrong if it's done by nice people like ourselves." ~Author Unknown
Over the Christimas break the 4theluv household received one of the worst domestic cleaning tools ever produced - the Bissell Spotbot. This little "jewel" boasts that even the toughest carpet stain is no match for its specialty formula cleaning solutions and its whirling brushes and water suctioning.
While they still look pretty good, as with every American family that has children and pets, the carpets at the 4theluv house show their wear. Through the years, things get spilled, pets have accidents, kids have accidents, parents have accidents and things get tracked through. While looking skepticly at the Bissell Spotbot and all its boasted claims, the 4thluvs decided that the worst of the stains had to go. After all, it couldn't make it look worse.
So what the heck, we thought. Let's give it a try. We filled the little machine with its "magic" formula, some recommended oxy-clean formula, set the machine over the stain we wanted gone, "set it and forget it". The whiring sounds set in motion, the high pitched whining, the back and forth of the brushes in its six inch circumfrence was a sight to behold. And ten minutes later this mechanical demon beeps its maniacal, almost satanic beep that it is finished.
Moved off the spot, the remaining carpet was still a bit damp and circularly brushed, but you really coudn't tell much. So you do what every self-respecting Bissell Spotbot owner does - you move it to the next spot and repeat. And of course, you repeat this action four times on four different stains, as that is about how many you can do on one tank.
The problem only appears after the spots dry. The problem, of course, is that all the hype and claims of the Spotbot are true. Absolutely true. 100% true. Way too true. The thing works better than it claims. There is no longer stains where the Spotbot was at work. The carpet looks brand new - fresh from the carpet mill. So soft and fluffy and fresh you wold lay your newborn baby on it, as long as your baby is smaller than six inches.
Now the 4theluvs consider themselves educated people. We tend to think through issues both theoretically and pragmatically. But the theoretical and pragmatic problems of the Spotbot escaped us both - perhaps because we didn't expect the claims to be true. The clean circles on our carpet now ridicule the dirt and grime on the rest of the carpet - carpet that didn't look too bad before we began. Now it looks like it should have been replaced years ago.
To say the least, Mrs. 4theluv was not happy. She wanted to know what we were now supposed to do with the crop circles in our carpet - the clean spaces. Those little round wonders of soft downy carpet pure as the driven snow. My only suggested was that we could show off our holes when people came to visit. (The couch was comfortable that night.)
And that's when it hit me - how many Christians live their lives showing off their holes? The things that they don't do. Those grand statements of how hole-y they are. Jesus had something to say about that:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. - Luke 18:9-14.
I have no doubt the Pharisee was not those things he said. He was defining righteousness by what he was not, and what he was. He was the display of perfection, a legend in his own mind. His holes were brilliant - he had hole-iness he could spout off and proudly display. And all of us repulse at that notion because we know that self-righteous arrogant jerk found sadistic pleasure in putting other people down.
It is so easy to condemn the Pharisee. But stop and think for a moment: don't each of us define "righteous" as those things we personally don't do, and those things we personally do or want to do better? And don't we gage the spiritual health of others by the standards we created for own righteousness? Isn't church about comparing our clean spots and learning how to accentuate them - all the while trying to cover up how dirty we are in other places?
Like my carpet, our "clean" spots only serve to highlight how desparately hopeless our situation is without Christ. But it also serves to showcase the promise and glory of the gospel - that our sins, though like scarlet, will be washed whiter than snow, and though crimson, will be as wool. (Isa. 1:18) Without Christ, there is no hope for any of us, no matter what we don't do.
I am glad, and hope it will always be so, that Community Presbyterian Church is a place that honors people not for the holes in their lives, but the Christ within them, our only hope. And perhaps all of us, the next time we are tempted to point out those sins we don't commit but others do will remember the lesson of the Spotbot.
Happy New Year.
PS - at the next yard sale for the church, there may magicly appear a Bissell Spotbot for sale. Feel free to buy it at your own risk. Just remember - it works. You have been forewarned.