After a long week of work, crashing on the couch and ordering pizza for dinner is sometimes about all I have the energy for. That doesn’t always happen each week, but given the choice, I would usually prefer to rest on Friday evening, and save other plans for Saturday. However, unlike my desk job, Saturday activities might involve working around the house, or even going outside and moving mulch around.
As a result, though, if I have planned a date night with my wife (whether a fancy dinner, or just burgers and a trip to the store to shorten our shopping list), I can’t just finish my chores and announce that I’m ready to go. I first need to clean up. A shower may be appropriate, as well as a new change of clothes. Otherwise, my wife might need to sit at a different seat in the restaurant from me (or a different row of the movie theater!), just to enjoy her evening out.
The same thing would be true if I was attending a formal event (which almost never happens for me), or getting together with others for a party or potluck. Showing up grungy and stinky – when we have the means to clean ourselves up – would be impolite.
There is another big event coming, when those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord will join Him in an eternal home. Jesus told a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven (see Matthew 22:1-13), in terms of a great banquet. Although guests were welcome at the banquet, they were expected to come in an appropriate manner, and it was no small matter to break the dress code:
“But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matthew 22:11-13 NASB
What is interesting to me is this verse from Romans, where it talks about what grimy things we should get rid of, and what we should put on, instead:
The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.
Romans 13:12 NLT
I don’t think that I’m taking too big of a step to draw a parallel between these two passages. In order to get ready for an eternity with Jesus, we should first realize that life with Him starts here on earth, once we have committed ourselves to following Him. Now, we should keep working for Him while we’re still here on earth. Even as we strive – with the help of the Holy Spirit – to take sin out of our lives, we may still be covered in physical dirt and sweat sometimes, while doing things that are part of God’s plan!
Once we’ve started down that path, though, it’s time to change out of our grungy “clothes” – wrong practices that we practiced while we were wading through the mess of our previous lives. The swamp of sin has stuck to us, and we need to clean up our evil activities, replacing them with a fresh outfit of righteousness. Just like our work clothes aren’t going to get any cleaner without some effort, this will take some action on our part. We might want nothing better than to just lie down and rest, but if the sin that we repented from is still part of us, we’re not going to feel much better, and we’re not going to be very nice to be around.
So it’s time to get ready for the great banquet. The good news is that we don’t have to own a tuxedo or ball gown here on earth to get in, nor do we have to be a wealthy donor or a member of a fancy social club. But, it’s time for each of us to clean up our act and be ready for something a little nicer than this messy world.