“I’m so grateful we never have to stand at a distance from Christ. Not only is He incapable of catching our ‘disease,’ but also He is never reluctant to embrace us”
(Beth Moore, Jesus: the One and Only, p. 242)
The other night, though, my daughter was fully decked out in her costume as an Oompa Loompa in a production of Willy Wonka, Jr, complete with thick, bright orange makeup all the way to her hairline and down to her neck.
…And she wanted to hug me.
…While I was wearing a white shirt.
…A really, really white shirt.
Did I mention she was orange? Really, really orange. In fact, I think Crayola should consider naming a new color “Oompa Loompa Orange” in her honor.
So, I hugged her at first with an intricately choreographed dance, making sure her orange head never made contact with my clothing. She bobbed; I weaved.
Then, I stood still for a moment and tilted her face to the side so that only the top of her head touched me. (Her hair, thankfully, wasn’t orange!) I gave her what I’ve decided to call “the sideways head hug.”
My goal here was a kind of sterile affection: Showing love without staining my clothes.
I’ve learned this dance over years of practice as a mom. Kids, after all, come at me every day with Oreos on their hands and spaghetti sauce oozing from their fingers. More paint makes it onto them than every makes it onto paper and then they reach out and touch me to get my attention.
In fact, most of my clothes bear the marks of their hands on my thighs (where they could reach when standing up as toddlers) and on my shoulders (from the times I picked those little ones up).
When I read through the Gospels, I’m amazed at how Jesus essentially wore a white shirt and yet never failed to hug, squeeze, lift up, and cherish all those who came to him—even when they were covered in stains of sin, death, and all that was unclean.
He never dodged them in attempts to escape the messiness of their lives.
When the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years braved the disapproving crowd in order to reach Jesus, she was unclean. Continual bleeding meant continually being cut-off from public worship and physical contact with others.
One brush of her skin against your arm and you’d be unclean, as well.
Yet, she touched Jesus and He didn’t flinch or condemn her. He didn’t sidestep her presence. He healed her and set her free.
When Jesus saw the coffin of a widow’s only son pass by surrounded by wailing mourners and his mother in despair, Jesus could have slipped away and ignored it all. Touching a dead body was a guaranteed mess, making you unclean by the law’s religious standards.
Jesus did it anyway, though, telling the dead boy to arise and then watching this only son embrace his mother again.
Jesus ate with the rabble, touched the eyes of the blind, and laid hands on the demon-possessed. His was a physical affection, the real and true fingerprints of God placed on undeserving lives and unclean situations.
Yet, instead of being tainted or stained Himself, He brought purity to others.
Paul put it this way:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Too often we miss the significance of this fact: Jesus did what was unclean and yet nothing could penetrate the purity of the Son of God.
He was sinless, blameless, totally righteous before God, but He didn’t use that as an excuse to separate Himself from others. Instead, it was His joy to absorb their stains of sin, now bleached white when laid at the feet of the Messiah.
It’s what He did on the streets of Galilee and Judea and Samaria.
It’s what He did on the cross.
It’s what He does even now when we let Him get involved in the dirtiest, muckiest, and most sin-plagued aspects of our lives.
That’s what John assures us when he writes: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
This means we don’t need to hide away or shun his society. We don’t need to pretend the unclean blots on our lives don’t exist.
It also means that we can follow his example by no longer worrying about our clean white shirts and start doling out affection without restraint, not avoiding the mess of others when it makes us uncomfortable. Like Jesus, we “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us” (Ephesians 5:2).
Sometimes real love means getting messy, maybe even orange.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.