“Take off the graveclothes.”John 11:44, NIV
Have you ever smelled something so raunchy it makes you gag? A skunk who’d let loose? Filthy gym clothes that had been stuffed in a locker for an entire semester? A dead animal?
Well, hopefully not your spouse. Have you ever had to send your spouse out of the house because they simply reeked? I have. More than once. (Sorry, Larry, but you know it’s true.)
It happened during our first year of marriage. My very kind husband offered to help a church member with some farm work. Now, hubby Larry loves farming. And what he loves most about farming is driving the tractor. And helping out our friend involved driving a tractor. But . . .
. . . it also involved working with chicken manure. Larry was to load up the tank (honey wagon to some), sucking out the manure from a pit under the chicken house. Once the tank was full, he’d haul it out to the fields and spread it. It makes great fertilizer, but . . .
. . . it also reeks. And just being around that for a while makes you stink. You can’t help but pick up the smell. What really upped the stench though was when something blocked the outlet tube. Then he’d have to up the pressure, take a steel post, and shove it up the tube, trying to dislodge the blockage. No problem, right? Except . . .
. . . it didn’t always go smoothly. If he misjudged things, he got sprayed, not by a skunk but with chicken manure. And let me tell you, chicken manure stinks! And, unfortunately, he couldn’t clean up until he got home.
And that’s when I kicked him out of the house.
Why do I bring this up?
Because some of us Christians stink?
Or maybe all of us stink at some time or other. Why?
Because we forget to take off the graveclothes. And graveclothes stink.
Remember when Jesus told people to roll away the stone from Lazarus’ grave? Martha told him that since Lazarus had by then been dead for four days, there would certainly be an odor. She was likely thinking of the dead body, but I’m pretty sure that by that time those graveclothes would have been rather odiferous too.
That warning didn’t stop Jesus though. He knew that Lazarus’ body was not stinking, rotting flesh. God had given Lazarus new life. All that was left was to get rid of those graveclothes.
God has given us believers new life as well. We are no longer dead. We are new creatures in Christ. And we need to rid ourselves of the smelly graveclothes. We don’t want those around us to be wrinkling their noses in disgust at the smell of things better left in the grave. We don’t want them kicking us out of the house, or the office, or out of their lives.
There is enough around these days that offends the senses. We Christians shouldn’t be—we cannot be—adding more. We need to attract, not repel.
Paul lets us know some of the things that we should leave behind. Things that belong to our former way of life. Things that belong to the dead. Things that stink. (We’ve looked at this before, but it’s so important it’s worth visiting the topic again.)
sexual immorality . . . impurity . . . lust . . . evil desires . . . greed . . . anger . . . rage . . .
malice . . . slander . . . filthy language . . . lying
Paul adds to the list in Ephesians 4, echoing the idea of putting off those things that belonged to our old, dead self:
falsehood . . . stealing . . . unwholesome talk . . . bitterness . . . brawling . . . foolish talk . . .
Get rid of all these things because we have taken off “the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9, NIV). Consider them graveclothes! Do you want to walk around wearing smelly graveclothes? Offending those around you, believers and unbelievers alike?
Christians aren’t always viewed positively in our world today. We maybe like to think it’s our holiness that’s putting people off. And there are some people who love darkness rather than light, as John said of some during the time of Jesus (John 3:19).
But we shouldn’t assume that is always the case. Maybe we need to ask ourselves if others are put off by the smell of our graveclothes. If people are shying away from us and our message, maybe we need to ask ourselves what stinks.
Is it me?
Soul Refreshers for your week:
- First, let’s thank God that we have been given new life. Not just eternal life, but a whole new way of life now. Think about that and all it means and give God thanks for such a tremendous gift.
- Let’s also thank God that he has given us the power to live this new life.
- We know it’s possible to live such a life because God would never command us to do something we were incapable of doing. (“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5, NIV)).
- And we know that he has given us the indwelling Spirit of God to help us live this life. I love the way Robert Hampshire explains the purpose of the Holy Spirit: “. . . Paul is explaining that instead of the Holy Spirit making the Christian life better, he makes the Christian life possible” (https://www.christianity.com/wiki/holy-spirit/how-are-believers-empowered-by-the-holy-spirit.html). The Christian life is possible. We can throw off the graveclothes. If we choose to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
- Take some time to prayerfully consider if there are bits and pieces of the graveclothes still clinging to you. Ask God to show them to you, and pray for his help in removing them, in putting them to death.
- Now go out and be a pleasing aroma to God and to those around you. “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15, NIV).