My son walked up to our pantry closet in our kitchen, looking for a snack. He quickly put his hand over his nose, uttering a muffled “Ugh! What is that smell?”
I looked over at him standing there, and said “What do you mean? Is it the trashcan?” Our kitchen trash bin is right next to the pantry, which is maybe not the best location. Because it can get stinky, I thought it must be the source of the smell.
But no, he said, “It smells like poop! And it’s coming from in the pantry!”
I got up from the sofa and went over to check it out. I caught a whiff of something, which smelled a bit like poop, but not quite either. It wasn’t strong, so I started to dismiss it in my mind. I reached down and halfheartedly shifted some boxes on the floor of the pantry, and I didn’t see much beyond some dust. Admittedly, I was pretty sure the smell wasn’t coming from the trashcan. And I didn’t really want to deal with whatever was causing the smell. So I said, “I don’t know. Let’s not worry about it.”
And with that I put it out of mind, and a few days went by.
A couple days later, I saw my son standing in front of the pantry again with his hand over his nose. In the ensuing days, I had stuck my nose in there a couple times when I, too, was snacking, and there was definitely an odor. But it still seemed faint, and I didn’t want to deal with it, so I didn’t.
This past Monday morning, though, the odor had become strong. Michelle pulled out all the boxes and containers on the floor and found a dead mouse caught in a glue trap. I will confess that I suspected that all along, and did nothing about it. We had seen mice sneaking around lately, and eventually caught three. It took hardly any time or effort to vacuum up the remains of a snack bag a mouse had hidden in the back corner to feast on, as well as the accumulated mouse droppings (I guess my son was right about the poop!), and then wash the floor, and put the boxes back.
Why did I wait to deal with the foul smell in my pantry, when it was relatively easy and effortless to resolve? Have you ever experienced that feeling of not wanting to deal with the junk of life? Have you ever let it linger?
Last week I introduced Luke 11:14-36 by suggesting that we might be all wrong about how we follow Jesus. In that section, Jesus casts a demon out of a man, and people in the crowd confront him with two questions: 1. Did he exorcise the demon by Satan’s power? and 2. Would he show them a sign from heaven? To give you a little preview of the answers, they are “No” and “No”. But these answers gave Jesus the opportunity to talk about what it means to follow him.
I find it fascinating what he does not say. He does not say “Believe in him.” Clearly, believing in Jesus, trusting in him, is a good thing, but why would he not mention that? Christians, and especially Evangelicals, have put a lot of emphasis on believing. Instead, he says that if we are to be his followers, we should have no neutrality about him. We are either with him, or we are against him. And when a person in the crowd shouted out “Blessed is your mother!”, Jesus responded with “On the contrary! Blessed are those who hear God’s Word and obey it.” Jesus is saying that following him will affect our choices, our behavior. Following him is not just about belief. Instead his followers will show what they believe by hearing his word and doing what it says.
There are two primary applications of this, the inward and the outward. Or as Jesus said “Love God and Love your neighbor”. Inwardly, God wants to enter the smelly closets of our lives and clean them out. He wants access to our secret thoughts and actions, our perversions, our addictions, to transform them into something far better than we could ever imagine. As someone has said, we too often hear Jesus knocking at the door, let him in, and just hope we can hang out with him in the living room of our lives. We know the place is messy, and we’re embarrassed about showing him around. But he says “I think I smell poop coming from the pantry in your kitchen.” And we respond “Nah…it’s no big deal.”
That sinful habit, that addiction, that undisciplined mind, that attitude, that complaining spirit…we know they’re in our lives, and we have a halfhearted desire to allow Jesus to clean us up, but we put it off. Maybe we have become accustomed to the stink, and we don’t smell it anymore. Maybe we think that it’s not so bad. Maybe we’re afraid we won’t be able to change, and this is just who we are. But Jesus says “hear my word and obey. Either you’re with me, or you’re against me.”
There are also the outward ways we show that we’re with him. Particularly, he said “Make disciples.” The primary way we show that we are his disciples is to make more disciples. But so many of us are not making disciples. We say that we believe in him, but we do not do the major task he called us to do in his word: “Make disciples”.
So do you need to allow Jesus to clean up that stinky closet in your life? Do you need to make disciples? Are you hearing his Word? Are you obeying what he says?