…and they walk among us. Their words fill the air with a thick blue fog of foul odor; through their actions it’s not uncommon for them to leave behind bits of “rotted flesh.” Their grave clothes leave them bound and helpless to do anything about their condition.
It’s not uncommon to be flipped off, told off, or put down by complete strangers anymore – or even by people you know. I see this happen frequently. On occasion I’m the recipient. It used to really bug me when people were ill-mannered and self-centered.
One day I realized: This person does not know Jesus. According to the Bible they are *dead* in their trespasses and sin.
Duh! Dead people stink. They can’t help it.
Should this understanding give me a sense of superiority to them? Hardly. If it wasn’t for Jesus, I would still be just like them.
Once we are made “alive in Christ,” though, there is still a lot of work to be done.
He was dead as they come – four days in the tomb. I love how the King James records Martha’s response when they were told to take away the stone that covered his grave, “Lord, by this time he stinketh!”
There is no stench like a rotting carcass. Stick your nose in a bag with a pork roast that’s been left too long in the refrigerator, if you doubt this. I gagged all the way to the dumpster!
Fortunately for Lazarus, the grave was opened. Then Jesus called him by name; good thing He did. Had Jesus just said, “Come forth” there would have been a lot more excitement that day.
Once Lazarus made his way out of the tomb, Jesus instructed those who were there to loose him. It is interesting that Jesus didn’t do it Himself. He was the epitome of servanthood. I doubt Jesus thought this was “beneath” Him; but rather, handled it this way as an example for us to follow.
A newly “resurrected” person, made alive in Christ, is still bound in his grave clothes…addictions, beliefs, behaviors, attitudes. They’re still very smelly. Unless this person gets help from the “living” (other believers), around him or her, they will be unable to remove the things that bind in their own strength. We are called to come alongside their stinky, newly alive frames and assist in the unwrapping. His arms are bound to begin with – rendering the fellow helpless in getting loose on his own.
Once this person has been thoroughly bathed by the washing of the water with the Word, he begins to be less “aromatic.” In time, he will learn to wear his new robe of righteousness – and be ready to assist someone else in the process.
And it is a process!
When I grasped this, I began to navigate life with more grace. I can (but don’t always – sorry, Lord) have compassion for those who are still dead, and pray for their release from death. I will mourn over their condition.
And once they’re truly alive, I have the joy of being invited to participate in their process of being made free. It will be stinky for a while, but before long they will become the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. They must be unwrapped gently, though. There’s brand new baby skin under those grave clothes!
In the meantime, they stink and they can’t help it. Let’s not content ourselves with criticism for their rotten behavior, or judge them.
So when you find your co-worker or the person in line at the store stinking up the joint, just remember:
They’re dead; they can’t help it!