Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a world free from bacteria? To be able to get your skin clean, really clean? After all, pathogens cause the death of millions of people each and every year. Our society promotes the idea of finally escaping from this scourge, of eliminating bacteria from every door handle and countertop that we touch. Anti-bacterial wipes are now available at most customer service counters, job sites and public gatherings. A wonderful step forward in humanity’s march towards better health? Not quite.
Our bodies are designed to host billions of these little creatures. The vast majority of the bacterial colonies that cover our bodies, inside and out, are there for our good. They allow our bodies to function correctly. For instance, without bacterial colonies in your gut you would starve. These beneficial germs protect us from those few bacteria that actually harm us. Eliminate most of the bacteria on your body and the pathogens that survived would quickly overwhelm your immune system, killing you as one infection after another coursed through your body.
Just like all bacteria are not bad, so not every human trait is sin, apart from God. The LORD created us to have souls. He planned for His people to be passionate, fun-loving humans who enjoy the world around us. When the LORD created sound waves and gave humans supple bodies with a sense of rhythm, surely He intended for us to dance. God is not an idiot. While passion and the desire for pleasure have brought ruin to countless people, without a zeal for life people become two dimensional caricatures. The very activities and attitudes that tempt us to sin are the activities and attitudes that are necessary for us to live a life that both glorifies God and draws nonbelievers to Him.
Christians who have learned to hate their own humanity drive nonbelievers away from God because they make the LORD seem unnatural and foreign. It is not an accident that in Deuteronomy God commanded His people to spend their tithes rejoicing in God’s abundant blessing, with strong drink and “whatsoever your soul lusts after.”
The gospel is the story of how God created man in his own image and became a human being out of a passionate desire for intimacy. It is not the story of God making creatures he can’t bare to look at, calling them to abandon their humanity, in order to become ethereal beings like himself. He does not want us to scrub ourselves squeaky clean from our humanity.
God has given us all things to richly enjoy. At His throne are rivers of pleasure. Looking at nature, we see that He is over-the-top in everything He does. A single leaf is more intricate than anything man has ever created. And yet, He creates trillions of leaves, has them all die, and starts again the following spring.
So we see that spiritual health involves a love for life, a deep appreciation of art, science, language and every other aspect of human culture. Strip away the humanity and pleasures of life and you strip away life itself, leaving only bare bones. Don’t dance, don’t drink, don’t be too passionate, don’t stick out from the group, don’t…don’t… Don’t!!!!!
True spirituality has, at its essence, a driving desire to squeeze life from every moment of the day. In the process, our minds and our bodies will glorify God. After all, the most spiritual thing we do as humans is to create children, each one born in the image of God. Think about it. No one ever created another living soul by praying together, reading the word or going to church. Children are created by something much more elegant and enjoyable than any of those good activities. In this most spiritual of actions, God reveals His passionate love for humanity. Love your wives, He said, as as I have loved the church.
God is not afraid of our humanity. He chose Judah and refused Joseph. This is the good news: he loved us when we were yet sinners. Not with a stand-offish love, given to some pitiful creatures, but with an over-the-top love that caused Yahweh to carve my name in the palm of His hand.
If we throw away our passion, if we avoid sin by avoiding life, we kill the very thing that Christ died to give us; a life so abundant that it exceeds all that we can ask for, hope for or think. In its place, we are offered the mediocrity of a life without risk. When Christians claim that being human is sin, then those who wake up every day, and instinctively know that God does not condemn their humanity, often choose to try and live life to its fullest, without their creator.
How sad, that the God of joy, the God that dreamt up sex, adventure and mystery has been reduced to a scrubbed up, predictable prude whose greatest hope for humanity is to play harps for him in heaven.