I've been working with some friends lately building decks and fences. It's been a blessing to pick up some extra money. The downside is I haven't been able to do other things as much as I'd like (post more often on this blog for instance). However, I think my work will only be temporary. Anyway, I have been given an array of new illustrations of the Christian life in my labors. Yesterday, a perfect illustration hit me while digging a fence post hole.
I was digging a hole for a fence post with post-hole diggers. Post-hole diggers are like two shovels on a hinge. The ground was incredibly muddy clay. It was sticky and heavy. The mud wouldn't just fall off the shovel or diggers. It would cling to the blades and smear around. So I had to take a small metal stake, and pry the mud off the blades of the digger. Then the mud would stick to the stake. If I rubbed the mud off the stake, it would then stick on my hands. I did get the holes dug after quite some time. Eventually, every hand tool and power tool we had was covered in mud. I told my friend that this mud is like sin.
First, it's heavy and messy. It doesn't just go away. In the same way that mud didn't just fall off the diggers with minimal effort, sin doesn't just go away without serious labor. In the same way that I had to use another tool to clean the mud off the diggers, sometimes we need assistance from others to be freed from clinging sins. Second, sin is pervasive, like the mud. The mud would smear all over everything, blemishing it, and even possibly ruining it in the case of power tools. Sin is the same way. It's all over everything. No part of our lives isn't affected by sin. When trying to rid ourselves of sin, we often just smear it to other parts of our lives. Third, it's difficult to hide mud. Try walking through a grocery store with muddy shoes. If you're muddy, everyone knows it. You stick out like a sore thumb. Sin and mud are very similar.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. You may not have ever heard it, but I'm sure you'll relate when I tell you. Are you ready? Okay, here goes: If you want to find sin in your spouse, you will. There. The secret is out. Here's another secret. One we may not like to admit. Ready? Here goes: Your sin shows. Now that those two secrets are out in the open, we are all free to live radically happy lives! Here's how.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:23-26).
On my own, I am not right. I am sinful. My wife has to expect it. And I have to admit it. It does me no good to pretend I am right. I'm not. And it shows. And it does my wife no good to expect me to be right. I'm not. And I'll disappoint her. The only hope my wife and I have at getting through this life intact is Romans 3:23-26. The cross of Jesus Christ is our righteousness. The cross is our justifier. We don't look for righteousness from one another. Oh, we love it when we get along well, and don't mistreat each other. But we don't expect it. When my wife and I mistreat each other, we know we have to go into "cross mode."
Cross mode is when we see sin so clearly in our spouse that we're tempted to undervalue them, and instead look to the cross of Jesus Christ that cleansed them of their sin. Christ becomes bigger than the sin of our spouse. The cross is the only detergent that cleans away the mud of sin. It doesn't always cleanse by removing it immediately. Remember that the next time your spouse sins against you. Sometimes the cross just says, "I know you're muddy. I love you anyway. I'm not ashamed of your mess. I don't mind getting muddy with you for awhile." Thank God for the cross of Christ that justifies sinners!
You and I are free from the tyranny of perfection. We're free from having to be perfect ourselves, and demanding it from others. It is amazing to see imperfect spouses demanding perfection from their mates. The cross holds out no such hope. Rather, it justifies the imperfect in the midst of their imperfection. It declares them perfect, even when they aren't. And it does this because the cross is the instrument God uses to judge us by. On the cross we are judged. And on the cross we are acquitted. On the cross we are condemned. And on the cross we are loved. On the cross we are criticized. And on the cross we are reconciled to God and others.