I was sitting in my office working on the school schedule at 4:30 last Wednesday when the painter who had been working upstairs all day came down and asked if I could give him a hand carrying his paint rig downstairs. Since I was the only one in the building and he was standing between me and the exit and he is a lot bigger than I am, I said “no problem.”
I took the stairs three at a time and rushed into the room where the machine was waiting patiently to be removed from its fume filled environment. I admired the light tan color that now covered the classroom and the smell of fresh paint forced me to remember the summers spent painting in order to pay my way through college. “Careful, everything’s still wet” brought me back to the present and I suddenly realized that I was wearing all black. I instantly felt trapped in the middle of an empty room. My monochromatic clothing paralyzed me in this environment of freshly sprayed, light tan paint.
Somehow, I think this is a similar picture to what James had in mind when he wrote:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this…to keep himself unspotted from the world. -James 1:27
Had I been wearing different clothes I would have had no fear of them being ruined. If they were more similar to the offending agent (lighter in color) I wouldn’t have been as worried. Unfortunately, this is the approach many Christians take to remaining unspotted by the world—simply making it impossible to tell when the world gets on them by already looking like the world.
If my clothes were not valuable to me (old or previously damaged) I wouldn’t have worried. Spiritually, this is an even worse solution as it requires living such a filthy life that new sin isn’t noticeable. Being previously spotted is completely contrary to James’s command and devalues the new life that Christ gives us.
I must admit that I didn’t think spiritually as I looked back through the artificial fog at the footprints my black shoes had left in the layer of fine dust covering the protective plastic. “You’re wearing all black! You really shouldn’t be in there!” said the painter. And that’s the solution both physically and spiritually. There was absolutely no way I was going into that environment, wearing what I was, and emerging without it leaving permanent damage.
I understand that this isn’t a perfect illustration as the spray rig still needed to be rescued from its filthy environment, the one giving good advice was covered in paint, and I was inexplicably wearing all black in the middle of summer. My point, however, is valid—let’s ease our consciences by avoiding sin rather than trying to camouflage it or ignore it.