Thus says the LORD, …
you have burdened Me with your sins;
you have wearied Me with your iniquities. (Isaiah 43:14, 24)
Don’t we hate it, when people bring up unpleasant things from our past ?
In my experience, when someone drags somebody else’s dirty laundry out into the sunshine, the owner of the dirty laundry will usually react in some of these ways:
> “That’s not my laundry !”
> “What were you doing in my laundry room !?!”
> “Hey ! I know about your dirty laundry,
and I’m going to drag it out for everyone to see, too !”
> “I was just getting around to washing that !”
> “My old laundry has nothing to do with my current laundry:
my current laundry is all clean.”
> “Somebody else soiled my laundry:
they ought to wash it for me.”
> “I’m so ashamed of that old stuff:
Please help me throw it away where nobody else will see it.”
[Ten years ago, I attended a church conference where one of the featured preachers said the following comical line: “Some of you knew me twenty-five years ago: for the sake of the kingdom of God, PLEASE don’t tell what you know !” ]
> “Do you think we could make some money
if we went on TV or online with all this filthy laundry ?”
> “Everybody has dirty laundry ! Why make a big deal about mine ?”
> “I’m outta here !”
Even though we know that God knows everything we have ever done, we may still react in some of the above ways when our old sins come to light.
Whether another person drags my dirty laundry into the sunshine, or whenever it occurs to me that God knows all about every shameful thing I have ever done, I am eternally thankful that God gives us a good way to deal with our human situation: forgiveness and a fresh start.
Thus says the LORD, …
“Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it ?” (Isaiah 43:14; 18-19)
We must admit that worldly-minded people do not practice such forgiveness and fresh starts: they may not forgive us or give us another chance: if we are to live in the world of true forgiveness and real fresh starts, we will have to make up our minds, that the only life we really care about is our life in Christ.
As I studied this week’s gospel lesson (John 12:1-8), questions came to me which led me to ultimate matters of forgiveness and fresh starts.
† The four gospels include four stories of a woman anointing Jesus with precious ointment: did this happen three or four times with different women, or what ? (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; and John 12:1-8) The four stories have many things in common with one another, but they also have points which differ.
For nearly all of the past two thousand years, Christians have made a big deal out of the woman in the story: they latched onto the comment in Luke 7:37 that she was “a sinner.” They spilled vast amounts of ink and put up enormous walls of stained glass portraying her as a repentant prostitute whose makeup was smeared with her tears. They attached the name Mary Magdalene to her, borrowed from the next passage in Luke (8:3). From the name Magdalene, they even coined a word for overly dramatic displays of emotion, which is still in use today: “maudlin.” I believe that those Christians were totally wrong in all this.
Though I take the Bible very seriously, I am thankful that our salvation does not depend on understanding why these four Bible stories are so similar and yet so different from each other. I am also thankful that our salvation does not depend on grasping the “dirt” in this woman’s story. In spite of whatever dirty laundry she may have had, Jesus blessed her and gave her a good name to last for all time. That’s what I want for myself.
† Matthew, Mark, and John present this story as a major trigger for Judas: following this incident, Judas soon went and made a deal to hand Jesus over to his enemies who wanted to kill him. When the day comes and we “know fully, even as we are fully known,” I wonder whether we will meet Judas in glory, forgiven for his misunderstanding and other sins… as I myself hope to be.