I am beginning to understand that love is fundamentally messy. Think about God’s seedbed for love, the family. Conceiving children is messy. Giving birth to children is messy. Raising children is messy. There’s absolutely nothing clean or aseptic about this process, it’s a big mess. Move from the family to another display of God’s love, the cross. What a mess: betrayals, denials, beatings, and then finally a bloody crucifixion.
Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
Jesus was not afraid to get dirty. He touched lepers and dead bodies. He hung around with the “dirty people” like the tax collectors, prostitutes and other “sinners”. The Pharisees on the other hand had spiritual OCD. They hated the idea of getting dirty.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
In opposition to the Pharisees, Jesus’ chief teaching on love has to do with someone picking up a half dead person from a ditch. Can you imagine what the Samaritan must have looked like as he pulled into the inn to drop off the injured person? This would not have been a pretty picture.
If we’re going to love we must be willing to get dirty. We must not allow the spiritual OCD of this generation to define our behavior. Instead, we must follow the Samaritan and the Lord down a dusty, dirty road where wounds bleed and blisters ooze.
Perhaps we can do this we can do this because we know the One who can cleanse us and make us whiter than snow. Perhaps we can do this because we believe that whatever dirt that sticks to us in showing love to God’s creatures will become sparkling diamonds of radiance in the kingdom of our Father. Perhaps it would be accurate to say that the dirtier we get in loving, the more brightly we will shine in the kingdom (God loves a good paradox).
Look to the forerunner. He became a mess in his endeavor to love us… and in exchange was given a name that was above every name.
It would be a mistake to relegate all benefits of the dusty, dirty road to the future. Perhaps the greatest glory of walking this muddy path is that Jesus is there with you. It’s a dirty road, but now a lonely road. It’s a messy road, but he’s there with you. With the lowest of the low, you take up fellowship with the King of Kings.
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