Open hands begging

Just Let Me Get Cleaned Up First

The amazing truth is that God invites us into his story even while we are still sinners. Remember, we’re a mess. We don’t live in the perfection of God’s shalom, we live in the chaos that comes after the fall. We are the unfaithful spouse who spurned God countless times and spread corruption and pollution everywhere in his creation. We’re the ones who rejected God and began worshipping ourselves. We’re the sinners.

And that’s precisely who God invites into his Kingdom.

The closest I can come to imagining this is to think about what it would be like for me to come home one day and find some homeless guy sitting on my front step. He’s dirty and it smells like he’s been drinking nonstop since the sun came up. He’s clearly had a rough life. And he’s sitting outside my front door.

On the other side of that door is my home, my family, my shalom. What should I do? Should I open the door? Should I invite him in? Should I bring this man into my home, introduce him to my daughters, seat him at my table, and share my life with him? Or should I sneak through the garage, hoping that he doesn’t see me, leaving the door closed, protecting my shalom from his corrupting presence?

If I’m honest with myself, the best I could probably hope for is that I would take him to a homeless shelter where he could get cleaned up and back on his feet. When he’s a little more respectable, a little less drunk, and much safer, then maybe I’ll invite him over for dinner.

Until then, the door stays closed.

That’s not how God’s Kingdom works. Seeing us outside the door to his Kingdom, what does he do? He invites us in. And he doesn’t ask us to go get cleaned up first. Instead, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God knows us in all of our brokenness. He knows the sins that we wear on our sleeves, and he knows the corruption that we hide deep within. And still he opens the door so we can enter his home, sit at his table, be a part of his family, share in his shalom.

When God comes home and sees us homeless beggars standing on his front step, he opens the door.

God’s table is not for the respectable. God’s table is for the broken, the poor, and the shamed.

That’s us. We are the beggars.

The good news is that God invites us to dinner, and we don’t have to get cleaned up first.

[This is an excerpt from a book that I’m writing about the gospel, Good News for the Living Dead: A Fresh Take on the Gospel Story. You can read the other excerpts and keep track of new ones as they become available on my blog.]

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

3 thoughts on “Just Let Me Get Cleaned Up First

  1. Personally, I don’t want to track my muddy feet on the carpet and get my stink on the upholstery. I don’t want say stupid hurtful things to the daughters and crash around the tableware with my ignorance and clumsiness. If God has a shower and a clean suit of clothes for me, I want that. If he knows about a shelter down the road with some decent counselors, I want that. If he wants to tell me the truth about myself, I can take that. I know I need to get cleaned up, and I want that. I just don’t want him want me to just go away.

    1. Marshall, thanks for the comment. But my post wasn’t about whether we need to be cleaned up after we respond. Of course we do. This was simply about the fact that we don’t need to try and clean ourselves up as a prerequisite to responding to the gospel.

      1. I guess I disagree … I think that trying to get cleaned up is the response to the gospel. Repentance for my present confessed sinful state. If you just mean to imply a temporal sequence, I admit you are right on the fine point … the confession, the desire, and the grace extended are simultaneous, inseparable … actually, I believe, must be continuous. The healing follows as a consequence.

        One thing I was responding to was what I perceived to be your thought that taking the beggar on your doorstep to the homeless shelter was an “at best would I do” partial solution. Whereas it is the recommended Biblical solution, if you lay a substantial donation on the shelter at the same time – Luke 10:25-37. Whereas straightaway seating him at your table isn’t the high road, it’s just setting both of you up for a nasty failure.

        Besides all that, I admit I am feeling emotional lately. Genuine thanks for your word.

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