A few of us got together the other morning to clean up our adopted highway, Old NC 10, in time for Easter Sunday. One might ask why a church would care so much about keeping our roads clean or recycling or being careful what we buy. The simple answer is that we want to be a people who love this Creation as much as our God loves this Creation. We can be a witness to a world that cares little of Creation or Creator. As they see our character, they see the character of God.
But you know what? Sometimes, it is hard to clean up garbage! It is much easier to make a mess than to clean one up. God gave humanity a garden, and we quickly create garbage dumps. What are we to do as a people? Cleaning up Old NC 10 can be overwhelming some days. And I have to confess that sometimes I even get mad, picking up bottle after bottle with seemingly no end to the garbage my faceless neighbor is willing to dump. "If I ever catch someone littering..."
And then my God reminds me of someone who left heaven, the quintessence of purity, to live among us, a people of filth. He did not just live among us, but he took our filth and made it his so that we may once again experience purity (Isaiah 1:18, 53:5-6). Why would Jesus do such a thing? Why would he take on our sins, though the fair thing would have been to let us clean ourselves of sin, an impossible task at that? Because he loves us.
We discover through Christ's love, we learn to love him and others (1 John 4:19). Some of us may even decide to follow Christ as our Master. Our Master commands us to "love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34)." Love like Jesus loved? Does he mean to take on the filth, the garbage, the sin, of others upon our shoulders? Jesus once said,
You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)
Perhaps to this list we can add, "If someone dirties your road, clean up his garbage." This is the spirit of servanthood (Mark 10:42-45). Jesus calls us to be the servant of all.
In other words, we Christians are the garbage men of the world, taking their garbage upon us as Christ did. Some people may see our witness, turn from their ways, and follow our Master. Others will never turn away but will receive the faithful witness of Christ's disciples. "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35)."
Rich Goodier is the pastor of Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Durham. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter.