For Sale: Parachute. Only used once, never opened, small stain.
You and I were created in a stainless image. Our first parents appeared on the outside as what they were on the inside – innocent in the likeness of their Creator.
Then came the Stain.
Soiled and discolored, we instinctively knew something was wrong. We tried soaking it out and scrubbing it out. But the Stain never went away. Like silver is discolored simply by exposure to the air, we were forever tarnished by the choices we made, and those made upon us:
Passion stains. Anger stains. Gluttony stains. Pride stains. Fear stains. Rejection stains. Deception stains.
Pick a role, we’ve tried it out. Victim. Perpetrator. Priest. Codependent redeemer. Witch doctor. Shrink. Prophet. Sheriff. Judge. Executioner. We’ve all donned the robes, flashed the badge, asked for mercy, or tied the noose.
But the Stain remains.
Like the dye under the microscope, the Stain makes the invisible visible. Despite our protests that “that’s not really who I am,” the Stain says otherwise. It harshly suggests that people lie because they’re liars. That they act out because they’re acting in. That their dirty deeds mirror their dirty hearts.
This isn’t the human race having a bad day. This is a race in rebellion, careening toward oblivion, with no one to blame and no solution in sight.
And always to remind us, there is the Stain.
So, we tried Plan B. Let’s glory in the Stain. Let’s have a Stain party. BYOS. We’ll all revel in it. We’ll tell Stain stories, have Stain parades, sell Stain souvenirs, even have secret Stain societies. Hey, if we can’t wipe it out, we may as well try to wear it out.
But while the Stain could intoxicate us, nobody could blot out the discredit, the disgrace, or the haunting despair brought about by the image that languished underneath. We were created for an eternal purpose, in the image of a holy God. And with or without our pretenses, guilty is still guilty.
From Guilty as Sin to White as Snow
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
An amazing promise, if we can simply imagine how deeply, deeply offensive the Stain is to God. And yet, here is the grace-filled offer: He can remove that stain.
Not to be picky here, but did you notice He didn’t use the word “wash?” This is no cosmic bath. It’s heart surgery. It’s character re-creation.
To listen to a lot of us, you’d get the idea that to “wash our sins away,” Jesus shot at us with some sort of spiritual hose or took us into His magic washing machine.
Not so, Ajax.
Jesus became the Stain. He immersed Himself into our soiled state. And in doing so, He took on every variation:
the killer and the thief,
the abuser and the materialist,
the slanderer and the adulterer,
your stain and mine.
He who knew no blasphemy became blasphemy.
He who knew no manipulation became manipulation.
He who knew no hatred became hatred.
He who knew no deceit became deceit.
He who knew no lust became no lust.
So that blaspheming, manipulating, hate-filled liars, sluts and whoremongers could become as righteous as He. All at His expense.
The problem with many in the church is that we don’t believe that about certain stains or certain stain-holders.
The problem with many others in the church is that we don’t believe that about our own particular stains.
Read this… slowly. Don’t sing it in your head; read it:
There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.
Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
This is what Jesus said never to forget as He broke the bread and shared the cup.
This is what grace – and only grace – does to my disgrace.
Here – and only here – is where Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
To let go of the Stain and my feeble attempts to wash myself and trust in His merit alone to change my heart – this is the faith that saves.
To let go of my fears and prejudices and reach out to others who were as stained as I was – this is the hope that redeems.
To see other believers as forgiven, regardless of their former Stain pain, – this is the love that turns hopeless enemies into community.
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