Dirty clothes

Zechariah 3
I had two friends dedicated to prison ministry. It was their enthusiasm and dedication that impelled me to join them. Whereas I took part in our ministry two to three times a year, these men were there much more. They visited with a group of “brothers in white” every week for prayer and study.

Both of them worked hard during the day and would show up to the prison just as they were. They didn’t have office jobs. When they showed up, that meant they came with dirty clothes. The aroma of a hard day full of labor came with them.

One told me he felt bad about showing up with such dirty clothes. He would’ve liked a chance to get home and clean up after work. But doing so wouldn’t give him enough time to show up for his weekly gathering. He was a bit surprised when the brothers told him they thought it was great he showed up “dirty.” To them, it was a sign he cared for them. There was no show or prettying up of anything.

Now, I’m not objecting to clean clothes are baths, obviously. Today’s scripture passage made me think of my friends.

In Zechariah 3, Joshua is standing before the Lord. It’s a vision the prophet sees to emphasize Israel’s covenant with God. They are the Lord’s priestly nation. When they follow the commands of God, they are ministering to the rest of the world. Their obedience proclaims God’s glory to all other nations.

But Israel is dirty.

Satan is there in the vision to rightly accuse Joshua. He’s ready to tell God just how dirty Joshua is. Just how dirty Israel is. Now, it’s normally Satan’s job to accuse. This time, though, God rebukes him. Israel is still God’s chosen. So, God redeems them.

You’ll notice in the vision Joshua does nothing but stand there. Someone else removes his dirty clothes. Someone else clothes him with clean, “festal apparel.”

Now, the question doesn’t come up in the vision. But I can’t help but wonder. Won’t these clothes get dirty like any other outfit? Not if “you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements.”

A lot of our churches profess to be “come as you are” churches. My experience tells me most of us aren’t prepared for such honesty and candor. Our spiritual clichés don’t help us handle the discomfort of seeing the dirty clothes someone else is wearing. But it’s showing up in our dirty clothes that frees us. Allowing God to take our guilt away. That’s how we experience the grace of God together. And how we grow in fellowship and faith.

Don’t worry, God will clean us up.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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