Things Jesus didn’t say: “Blessed are the perfectionist and over-achievers, for they are the only ones who don’t embarrass me daily.”
My aunt remind me of the old saying: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”
How cool is that? A substitute in case we fall a little short. We can just work are butts off into looking like reasonable responsible people and that will be enough for God to shrug and say “good enough my clean-machine servant.” at the end of our lifetime. So cool…. yet so falsely lame.
What is awesome about doing less than your best with something you want to dedicate your life too? If cleanliness is next to Godliness, it’s pretty much nothing at all, if the Godliness has any appeal whatsoever. But actually “cleanliness” is part of Godliness according to the book of Leviticus.
The unfortunate aspect to a personal God is that this God shows interest in details. And the only thing which is truly unfortunate about that is we assume the people who pay attention to details are anal, obsessive, OCD, pessimistic perfectionist who are here to make it hell for the rest of us. But to certain aspect details out to be the awe-inspiration of beauty.
I’ve worked for the bosses who can’t make themselves so lowly as to give a compliment before you die but they have extra work for you to do -since you actual do your work-, and I’ve worked for the bosses who are willing to give an ounce of respect for a job well done. I could travel for miles on an ounce of respect. I’ll work hard, be on time, stay late (if needed), and get jobs done that aren’t actually my responsibility but someone has to do it. It doesn’t take too much for me to be someone who pays attention to the details in the workplace.
However at home, my husband and I compete to see who can wait longer on doing the dishes. I frequently lose. We’re not clean freaks when it affects just us.
But maybe that’s the good point of “cleanliness is next to Godliness”
Maybe, cleanliness is sometimes our consideration of others, and messiness is our simple need to function.
I’ve heard the little Evangelical slogan of joy means:
J – Jesus first
O – Others second
Y – Yourself last
…and I just want to be the person to say, Jesus didn’t say that.
Actually Jesus did say the first & greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the second greatest command is to love your neighbor as yourself.
People are tied. There’s no greater and lesser. One does not give what one cannot receive. We are paradox people. We are creatures in need of balance. To over emphasize the need cleanliness, as if it were a substitute for Godliness, is damaging. To disregard it completely is to miss the poetic nature of a parable and to suffer such losses that otherwise would not be known.
God understand messiness. Jesus understand messiness.
In beginning God created and gave order which in return created purpose. We think that according the Hebrew poetry, God actual allowed himself to come into his Creation at the beginning of time, and before sin entered the world. Then somewhere around 2000 years ago, we believe Jesus enter into the world as it was becoming increasingly messy, and something happened with Jesus that didn’t necessarily happen with others who lived at his time and tried to promote a sort of substitute.
During that time there were a lot of different sect who were trying to work towards a sort of cleanliness that would bring the Promised One of Israel. Well known groups were the Pharisees, Zealots, Sadducee, and Essenes. They all had different plans on how to clean up Israel, and they all believed that if they did succeed in this then their Messiah would come. Essential their cleanliness would be next to Godliness. It didn’t work out too well for them.
But there was also another group that wasn’t really on anyone’s radar at that time. Later that small group would become known to the world as “Christians” but at the time they were just Jews who had taken an interest in Jesus. Jesus had a way of making the prophet’s words come alive again. He seemed to plunge into the heart of a saying and not just combat the external uses of a saying. This same man who was known for healing the sick, raising dead children, causing the blind to see and the deaf to hear, restoring withered & crippled body limbs, he was also known as a drunk, a lush, and a friend of the unbearable types of people in society.
Jesus was a little messy according to those who had a plan for cleanliness.
Yet thousand years later, and out of all these people and their crazy plans & lifestyles, the only two that are still known to be around and well are the Pharisees and the Christians. The Christians believe the Promised One of Israel has come and that they are included in that promise, and the Pharisees who are still waiting for the their Promised One to come.
Let me just be the one to say, Pharisees were not necessarily bad people, however any of us who try to accomplish things of Godliness without actual core heart-changing Godliness, we are damaging people in our world & culture.
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is a recipe for disaster (and dry skin).
There are not enough chemicals in the world to create perfection. Only God creates perfection, and he does it by entering into our chaos, our messiness, dark night and then he’s just there with us. God and us commune together, that’s where perfection is. Our balance in life isn’t something we create than show God, so that he’ll be impressed. It’s something we obtain as we allow ourselves see the paradoxes we are, and the fullness which God brings forth out of those paradoxes.
(spoiler alert) At the end of the movie Schindler’s List,
there’s this scene where Schindler has to flee because the war is over and he’s been associated with the Nazis party, which means if caught he might be killed or tried. The Jews which he saved are all around him, and he looks around at all these people and looks at his car that he’s about to get into and drive away and his gold pin on his jacket and he says, “Why did I keep these? That could have been one more person I could have saved!” The man had put himself in poverty saving the Jews that he did, but in the end he still saw more he could have done. His heart was all in. There was no “good enough”.
It’s a heart breaking scene, and one I hope I never forget.
If we think doing something great or even small good things we eventually add up to “good enough”, then we’re wrong. The only “good enough” we ever find is in fullness and completion.
In Hebrews 12:2 there’s this piece of scripture that talks about Jesus being the author and perfecter of our faith, and some translations say finisher of our faith. It’s this idea that’s it not over until it’s all fulfilled.
We are paradox people, but a personal God who creates and redeems, does not need us to assist him with a substitute Godliness or backup plans. What God offers is more than sufficient. Let’s not settle for second best.