In the last two weeks I’ve noticed a decidedly odd taste coming out of my latte machine. It’s sort of like old coffee or bath water being thrown in the mix. I checked the inside where the fresh water goes and it smells okay, then the underside where the steam goes through the grounds, it was a little dirty but nothing untoward (it’s been worse).
This morning I made my latte, let all the steam out as usual, then sent fresh water with no coffee grounds in the carafe to flush out the metal screen. This done, I wiped the screen as clean as a bachelor is want to do with a paper towel in hopes I wouldn’t have to do any more. We’ll see tomorrow.
Paul calls the gifts the Philippians sent him a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
What happens when our gifts to God begin to have an odor to them? What do we do about it when our attitudes begin to stink?
I know from my own life it’s sometimes fairly impossible to pinpoint the cause of all that moldy, mildewy odiferousness, because the problem lies under piles of garbage in my life. There are places in my apartment that smell like a cat sprayed somewhere, but I can’t find the exact spot where it happened. I’ve killed most of those spots, but there’s one in my office I can’t find–picture me on my hands and knees going around the floor and lower part of all my recording equipment sniffing to find the source–not once but several times. I do this many times with my relationship with God.
I believe as we grow accustomed to clean living and right standing before God, our insensitivity to our own bad spiritual hygiene grows less and less, so we’re able to smell something ugly in our souls. I don’t know what your problems are, but I’m guessing they are just as stinky as mine because both of us need Jesus. Yet He came precisely to wash us with water from the River of Life, to put a clean robe on us washed in His blood, and baptized us with His Holy Spirit inside so that we learn to know through this what it feels and smells like to be clean.
No one is exempt from being aware of their own smelly condition once they bath in the water of life. It comes naturally to know the difference between someone who smells clean and one who hasn’t bathed in a while. I believe the more mature we grow in the Lord, the more sensitive our spiritual olfactories grow. It’s probably one of the main reasons “mature” Christians become so critical of younger Christians.
Yet it shouldn’t be this way at all. As older brothers and sisters, we should remember all of us begin as babes in Christ. If we take that analogy far enough, we see that someone had to change our spiritual diapers many times before we were able to keep clean on our own through Christ. The point of discipleship is for those able to teach the Word to discipline those too young to grasp it all yet. True maturity in Christ or any other walk of life realizes the stages of growth we all must go through, accepts the responsibility with joy and teaches the young not only through playing and words but example. A truly mature follower of Jesus grows merciful, gracious and gentle with others because their Master treats them this way. Maturity critiques without being merely negative; troubleshoots without causing undue trouble. A mature believer doesn’t need to shout to get a point across because they’ve learned the quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of fools. Love accomplishes far more effective change in the lives of humans than force or criticism. When a person knows they matter, they grow far more willing to adjust their attitudes and behaviors. In other words, once they know what it’s like to be clean, they begin to recognize their own state more readily.
My latte machine might just be tired of dealing with Gladstone (a suburb of Portland) water, which has a lot of minerals in it and leaves rings around my tub. It might also be that the poor workhorse has seen its better days–it is, after all, over ten years old. Whatever the case, I’ll continue to care for it since we’re friends. I don’t throw out familiar stuff just because it gets a little worn out, instead I become even more careful to care for it and preserve it. Plus, I don’t have the extra money to go buy a new one.
I want to grow like this in my witness, discipline of others and teaching. I pray that when I smell something bad in a younger believer’s spiritual underwear, I won’t treat it like a witch hunt to crucify them for being too young to realize they just soiled themselves. I would much rather gently clean them up, work with them to be aware of the spiritual potty over there in the bathroom and reward them every time they do the right thing.
As to my latte machine, here’s hoping my efforts this morning worked.