I’m sure that most, if not all of you will know the frustration of pulling a load of washing out of the machine only to discover that it’s covered in bits of tissue from someone’s pocket. The disaster comes in differing degrees, of course:
- Sometimes the offending tissue remains pretty much contained within the pocket, so there are only a few bits stuck to the rest of the load – predominantly on the garment with the pocket itself. This is annoying, but relatively easy to deal with – you can simply pick the bits off with your fingers.
- Sometimes the tissue has been shredded by the washing cycle into a large number of pieces which are spread throughout the wash. This is deeply frustrating because collecting all the little bits is time-consuming, and you’re never sure you’ve managed to gather them all. In fact, you can almost guarantee that in a few weeks’ time, when you are in a rush to go out to dinner, you’ll discover bits of tissue you missed on the shirt or blouse that you have carefully selected for your special evening.
- Sometimes, the tissue isn’t so much shredded as utterly disintegrated so that there is a fine covering of paper fibres over every inch of clothing in the wash. This is the most irritating. There’s nothing you can do about this except wash the whole lot again, or use one of those sticky lint rollers to clean the “clean” washing. This latter course of action takes ages, and is never 100% effective. (I am told that, for the right pieces of clothing, a tumble in the dryer will remove the fluff, but this obviously doesn’t help for the items of clothing that will shrink under heat.)
Perhaps the worst thing about the situation is that you’ve told your children/husband/wife to check their pockets before throwing their clothes in the wash. A thousand times. But they just forget. It’s as if such a menial task is beneath them, and that you don’t deserve them to do it for you. They will protest it’s nothing personal, of course, just “forgetfulness”, but in the final analysis, each new occurrence is simply evidence of how they view their ease as more precious than yours (they would rather lazily throw their contaminated clothing in the wash than take five seconds to empty the pockets and save you ten minutes).
There are parallels here with how we treat our sin. Like a dirty tissue in a pocket, tucked away and out of sight, sometimes we are unaware of it. Occasionally we realise it’s there and resolve to do something about it, but more often than not, we do nothing (after all, it will take effort on our part, and sometimes, however manky it is, we feel somehow reassured that it’s there – just in case we wish to use it). God, of course, calls us to deal with it – to acknowledge it, bring it out into the open and give it to Jesus. If we don’t do this, then like a tissue through the washing machine, we can be sure that our sin will begin to affect our neighbours and friends and the quality of our relationships with them. And the longer we leave it, and however much we claim “I forgot” or “I’ll do it later”, the more he is right to accuse us of selfishness – of not loving our neighbour as ourselves – and we can be sure to receive from him what we deserve. If, on the other hand, we do as he says and give our sin to Jesus, we have his promise of complete forgiveness. So why wait?