I do. It is coming from the back of my car. It all started with a weed-eater, actually a weed-eater that was out of gas. I drove to the gas station and filled up my gas can for the appointed task of tidying up my yard. All was fine and ordinary and such until I pulled out in traffic and my gas can tipped over sideways. The can was riding happily in the back and so by the time I pulled my car over, lifted the hatch, enough gas had sloshed onto the floorboard to power my weed-eater for a week.
It is at times like these that I need to come to grips with the fact that my MINI Cooper is not a pick-up truck. Be that as it may, my car has a rather strong odor of gasoline. I have left my windows down and the trunk open. I have scrubbed over and over again the floorboard carpets. All of my efforts have come to no avail. Alas, my poor car smells like a mechanic’s garage. There are just some smells you have to wait out.
In an odd way this has reminded me of a saying my grandmother had: “If you hang around garbage you are going to smell like trash.” As the matriarch of the DeLoach clan this was her way of cautioning us to be careful with the company we keep.
This is of course good advice for all ages, but with all due respect it is not entirely true. The believing community is also called to leave the safe and sanitary confines of insulation and go into a world that is messy and fallen. With Christ as our model we engage people where they are: the downtrodden and the ostracized; the searching and the fleeing; the pious and the profane.
The missional mandate of the church is not to invite others to first get cleaned up, but for us to go and roll our sleeves up and work, visit, feed, clothe and love. Yes, it is messy, smelly work, but it is authentic work.
The tragedies in Virginia, the hardships in Darfur, and the desperation in the Middle East call on us to leave behind our shelters of security and enter into a world that God loves and Christ has died for. Only then can we begin to realize that Christ really has come to cleanse us, thoroughly, completely and eternally.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2, NSRV)