It’ll All Come Out in the Wash
By Patricia Backora, author of the book
Tough Love in Christ’s Millennium
Which you can order online from: http://www.publishamerica.com
Pastor Peasley smiled serenely as the delicate strains of the organ wafted through the Gothic cathedral. People filed into the plush pews, overarched by beautiful stained glass windows which gently diffused the autumn sunlight. Computer-glazed eyes feasted on the sparkling murals above them, as swirls of joyous notes proclaimed the triumph of crystalline angels and saints. World-weary businessmen found fleeting escape in the turquoise, violet and crimson paradise depicted in the windows. That was where they hoped to end up someday, in rainbow realms of effortless ecstasy. But for the interim, this was the place to be on Sunday mornings. This palatial cathedral was where the cream of high society came to worship, and most importantly, to be seen to worship by business associates and influential friends.
Once the organ ceased its ethereal groaning, the service commenced with greetings to visitors. Ushers passed out cards for them to fill out and heartily shook their hands. A flowery prayer, which sounded more read than prayed, was intoned from the vast oaken pulpit. A prayer perfectly homogenized and ecumenical, and totally inoffensive to every creed in the community. And, as always, exactly three sedate hymns were sung, extolling the beauties of God’s creation. Even the hymnal had been carefully compiled, to edit out controversial content. This was done “in the interest of unity”.
Pastor Peasley, resplendent in a purple cassock, glanced at his Rolex. It was 11:30, right on the dot. Assistant Pastor Cloud had just finished reciting his weekly “gem of wisdom” which exhorted the congregants to peace and good will among neighbors. It sounded even less stimulating than it had the week before. The big man in the second row was already snoozing, but he only had to sit there half an hour more before the benediction, after which Pastor Peasley must meet with friends for luncheon and a few holes of golf.
“There are those who trouble you!” he began in an uncharacteristically stern tone. “God is a good God. He is ever merciful. If anything under the sun is a sin, it is a sin to impugn God’s character by implying He would ever be unloving enough to consign anyone to eternal punishment for temporal trespasses. A few of you told me you were approached in town by wild-eyed religious fanatics handing out leaflets which warn of hell.” Pastor Peasley held up one. It was all red with flames, entitled: “Jesus Warns You of Hell”.
The pastor set forth a theory which denied that the Bible meant “eternal” when it spoke of eternal retribution for sin. He zeroed in on the Greek word aion, which sometimes could indicate an era, but could also mean interminable time, according to the context in whch it was found. Pastor Peasley cited a verse in the tract: Revelation 20:10, in which satan finds himself in a terrible Lake of Fire to be tormented forever and ever. But surely, said the pastor, a merciful God could never mean “eternal" to mean “eternal” where it concerned punishment for ordinary human beings. Pastor Peasley held out hope for even the worst of lost souls who had died in woeful rebellion against God. Why, even such villains as Judas Iscariot and Nero would eventually be raised up out of the underworld once they’d learned their lesson and be admitted to Paradise, Pastor Peasley asserted. Throughout his homily he ridiculed the cartoon tract as the product of an ignorant, barbaric mind. His voice shook as he quoted the conclusion of the tract, which proclaimed that only the precious blood of Christ could wash away sin. Rather, the pastor extolled God for forgiving sins out of a deep understanding of man’s basic imperfection.
“We should view these misguided, ignorant souls with compassion, rather than giving credence to their fanaticism,” said the pastor. “Jesus Himself says that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should find life everlasting. Does this sound as if Jesus is as devoid of humanity and compassion as those extremists who spread these unconscionable doctrines? He held the tract up higher. “Well, I’m going to show everyone what I think of such fearful fanaticism.” The pastor ripped the tract up.
“My mother, God rest her soul, used to say all the time: ‘It’ll all come out in the wash.’ He chuckled. “I remember the tears I shed over a Batman T-shirt which got a little axle grease on it. But my mom reassured me that while the shirt might look ruined, it was not beyond hope. She had a secret weapon to fight the grease: ‘Lovin’ Suds’, I believe it was called. Friends, can you imagine my joy when that T-shirt came out white as snow…except for the Batman on it of course! Let me expel all your fears right now: All the nagging questions which have caused needless anxiety in the hearts of so many decent church-going people; all the hair-splitting doctrinal differences which have riven asunder countless denominations over the centuries; all the human imperfections you and I have sorrowed over in ourselves and in each other, they’ll all come out in the wash. Nothing makes an erring soul or a hopeless situation whiter than snow than the power of love. It sanitizes every moldy dark crevice in our lives like spring sunshine after a gray, soggy winter. When we meet our Maker after we cast off this fragile body of clay, surely He, in His infinite compassion, shall understand that we are only dust and we have done all within our power to please Him. Surely God’s mercy is everlasting. It is infinitely greater than our lowly human condition. His mercy reaches unto the highest clouds and even down to the lowest hell...er, I mean, down to the lowest ebb of our lives. Let us bow our heads now for the benediction and give God thanks for reminding us that it is not up to us to whiten our own dirty laundry. It will be washed by His own kindness and compassion. Yes, friends, love is the most powerful soap of all to clean up degenerate lives. Haven’t we enjoyed great success in transforming lives as we carry out our Skid Row Rescue Program? It’s not just carrots and peas we put in the soup at the mission, they can taste love in every sip. The Bible teaches us that only love matters and if we have not love, all else we do is in vain. To put it less than delicately, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’ll all come out in the wash.”
Before he could conclude the service by invoking God’s blessing upon the congregation, a lady in the third row timidly raised her hand. “Yes, Mrs. Soames?” the pastor said, surprised that anyone would want to prolong the service. “If you have a question, please make it quick so we can pronounce the benediction and dismiss everyone.”
She stood up. Everyone grew very quiet. “Pastor Peasley,” she called, “I also was given one of those tracts in town. The one they gave me had to do with Noah and the Ark he built. Its message was unforgettable. Only Noah and his family were willing to enter into the Ark to be saved. The main focal point of the tract was this: Jesus Christ is God’s only Ark of salvation. And only His Blood can wash away our sins. Now, if people refuse to enter into Christ, the Ark of Salvation, to be saved from the wrath to come, God can’t be held accountable for the consequences.”
“But the Bible says love covers a multitude of sins!” argued the pastor. “That tells me not to fret over people’s peccadilloes, because when all is said and done, it’ll all come out in the wash.”
The woman strode toward him. The slumbering man in the second row was wide awake now. This was too exciting to miss. “What that verse tells me, Pastor, is this: When we love our brother or sister, will will love them in spite of their many imperfections.”
“Well, doesn’t God do the same?” countered the pastor, who was fidgeting because he feared he would be late for luncheon.
“Yes, Pastor, God does indeed love sinners. So much so He sent His only Son to die for them on the cross. But God is so holy He cannot forgive sin unless it is paid for by the blood of an innocent substitute, and the only One Who was innocent enough to pay for our sins is Jesus. He said that unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you don’t have eternal life in you.”
Pastor Peasley gasped in shock. “Mrs.Soames, the very idea!”
“But Pastor, that’s God’s truth. Jesus Himself said that in John 6:53, I bookmarked the verse right here. Pastor, didn’t you learn those Scriptures in seminary?”
He cleared his throat. “Well, as I said before, some Scriptures were geared toward the primitive culture Jesus lived in. Jesus used terminology the unlearned minds of His time could relate to. Jesus reconciled the whole world to God by living a very moral life in our place. It is in the sense of following Him as our best example of a godly life that we drink into His..ah... blood, which symbolizes the exemplary life He led. ”
“Well,” said the woman, “all I know is I’d better accept the Word of God at face value. We had better be willing to receive a transfusion of the Life of Jesus into us or God can’t be pleased with us. We’d better rest our faith on that blood which was shed for us on Calvary, or we’re all headed for hell. Jesus said in the Book of Revelation that He stands at the door knocking. But it is up to us to let Him in. Jesus doesn’t force our way into our lives. And He doesn’t pour His flesh and His blood into our soul against our will. We receive His Life into our hearts willingly, by faith. He doesn’t take up residence in our lives by force. We must invite Him in.”
The pastor winced. “All right, all right, just don’t bring up the ‘B-word’ anymore. We are a civilized, rational church. There’s lots of impressionable children and sensitive people here who could get traumatized by being exposed to such concepts, and besides, the ministry of this church is focused on being an uplifting place of inspiration for the family and to provide inner enrichment for personal growth.”
“But Pastor, you can’t deny that all men are sinners and stand in need of redemption.”
Uneasily he chuckled. “Oh well, Mrs. Soames, you know what they say: All roads lead to Rome. People will come from the north, south, east and west to gather in God’s kingdom.”
Mrs. Soames was nobody’s fool. “Pastor, you’re still missing it by a country mile. Jesus said in John 14:6: I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me. Jesus didn’t say He was a Way to the Father. He said He was the Way.”
“Mere semantics,” the pastor shrugged. Mrs. Soames, have you ever studied Greek, the language in which the gospels were written?”
“Then you’d better not try to set me straight, eh? We’ll just lay the matter to rest. As I said before, it’ll all come out in the wash someday. God understands.”
“Speaking of Greek, Pastor Peasley, why is it that you pick at the Greek terminology for ‘eternal’ where it concerns eternal condemnation, but you don’t question God’s eternal nature or the eternal duration of eternal life? Aren’t you being a bit biased?”
He raised his eyebrows. This woman was one tough cookie and he was anxious to be on his way to T-Bone’s to join his golf friends. His mouth drew into a tight line. Mrs. Soames, let’s not delve into Greek homiletics, please. It would be as futile as a rocket scientist trying to discuss physics with a kindergarten student...although I am not questioning your native intelligence or your piety, of course. I love this congregation and I would never, ever lead you astray. Just take it on faith that God’s ways are perfect and your fears of eternal hell are groundless.”
“Since I made my peace with Jesus, Pastor, I don’t have to worry about going to that awful place anymore,” she replied. “But I do have a great burden on my heart for those in this congregation who don’t yet know Him as their personal Savior.”
Pastor Peasley smiled patronizingly at her. “Great burden? But life is meant to be a joy, Mrs. Soames. Surely God wouldn’t send good, decent, upright souls like these to an eternally burning hell. Believe me, you needn’t make such a fuss over others who don’t know any better and can’t be held accountable for the human imperfections they were born with. Sure, they’ve got their problems, and some of them stumble in this Pilgrim Way. But then they get right back up, square their shoulders and carry on with the adventure of daily living. Whatever their difficulties, they do the best they can and in the end it will all come out in the wash.”
Mrs. Soames knew he was in love with his liberal theology. “Chances are, Pastor, that’s exactly what the people of Noah’s day said: It’ll all come out in the wash. Well, they wouldn’t listen to Noah’s preaching. They wouldn’t obey God like Noah did. They wouldn’t offer up animal sacrifices as a means of looking forward in faith to the final atonement made by Christ, God’s perfect Sacrifice for sin. And in the end, they wouldn’t enter the Ark themselves. So what choice did God have but to say: ‘Since they won’t let Me wash them to protect them from the coming judgment which will wash sinners off the face of the earth, they will have to be swept away in the wash water when I send the Flood’.”
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