One of my high school biology teachers once took a trip to Australia and told us about a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. Her group went snorkeling and diving around some shelves of coral near the beach. When the group gathered at the end of the afternoon, one of the lifeguards asked, “Did any of you get scratched or scraped by the coral?”
One guy raised his hand and pointed to a spot on his leg. The lifeguards asked him to take a seat on the sand. They pulled out a big bottle of antiseptic and a stiff brush. One Aussie held the poor guy’s leg while another dribbled antiseptic constantly on it, and the third lifeguard scoured the reddened scratch with the brush until the scrubbing drew blood. After the bottle was empty, they bandaged the wound with clean gauze and asked, “Anyone else?”
No one said anything.
There was another member of their party who had been scraped on the arm, but after seeing what happened to his friend, he decided to keep silent. The group got on the bus, went to dinner, took in some sights and returned to the hotel. The next morning the man with the untreated coral scratch wasn’t feeling well; he had a slight fever, so he stayed at the hotel while the group went out for the day. When they returned in the evening and checked on him, they found that he had an elevated fever, and his arm was reddened and swollen. He was admitted to the hospital, where he remained until it was time to return to America. The warm water and the coral combined in a toxic mix that, when introduced to the body, caused infection quickly. The readiest solution was intense (albeit painful) cleansing. The man mentioned earlier who had undergone the “antiseptic and brush treatment” suffered no ill effects whatsoever.
God’s cleaning of our lives is like that at times. He scrubs at areas of our lives needing cleaning. Part of the cost associated with cleansing is discomfort. Though that is a high cost, consider the cost of not allowing him to clean our lives. We might see brokenness in other people, witness the way that God radically purifies their lives and shy away from that kind of working. We might say, “It’s only a scratch. It’s a little thing. How bad can that be? What harm can it do?” Given time, the introduction of that small amount of toxin, if left unchecked, may grow into a full-blown infection (1 Corinthians 5:6-7).
Followers of Christ should seek purity because he is pure. “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). This purity is to reach the deepest levels of our lives. We cooperate with God’s cleansing by obedience to the truths of scripture. “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:22-23).
Will you ask God to use his word to reveal areas where you need cleansing, no matter how painful that cleansing may be? The cost of remaining the same is far greater.
We would ask and welcome God to search our hearts and reveal anything that is against his will for us. – Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
We will read scripture diligently and allow it to show us our deepest thoughts and motivations. – Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
We would repent of sin quickly and with confidence in the forgiving character of God. – 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.