Written by Rev. Keith Turman
We’ve been told how to avoid infection. Wash your hands. Wash them for twenty seconds while singing your favorite song. I have actually enjoyed this part of isolation, but it’s driving my wife crazy. “Do you have to sing that same song over and over again? And do you have to sing so loud?” “Yeah. I’m really sorry Babe. Doctor’s orders.”
Don’t touch your face. Ever. That means don’t take off your glasses and rub your tired eyes; don’t pick your teeth; don’t pick your nose; and don’t stick your fingers in your ears. Good luck with all of that when your eyes are tired, you’ve eaten corn on the cob or put blackberries in your oatmeal, your nose refuses to stop collecting dust, and the kids are running around the house screaming at the top of their lungs. This seems an impossible directive, and it’s ruining any meaningful conversation in my life, because I’m constantly shouting out loud, “Oh no! I touched my face! I touched my face!”
Wear a mask. It won’t protect you from the virus, but it will keep you from touching your face. And while you’re at it, just don’t touch anything. If you touch something, use lots of hand sanitizer. But my little bottle of hand sanitizer is empty, and so are the shelves in the stores I’ve searched. I can’t succeed at this thing on my own. So I called Dave Angel. Dave is in my Wednesday morning Journey Group, and he makes spirits for a living at Elevated Mountain Distilling Company in Maggie Valley. Dave’s business made history three and a half years ago becoming the first legal still in Haywood County, and he’s making history again these days—repurposing his still to make hand sanitizer. Dave is resourcing our community to beat this thing, reminding us that we’re not fighting alone.
I am fascinated with God’s directive for people to live holy. A holy life is a sinless life. The command to holy living is consistent throughout the Bible. God often says to the people, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Jesus says it too, in a slightly different way. “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Does God really mean that? It seems like such an impossible request—feels a lot like the current ‘don’t touch your face’ struggle. The impossibility claim seems to be supported by our belief that humanity inherited a sinful nature—we are natural, born sinners. Our doctrinal statement on this matter states that “original sin is the corruption of the nature of every [human], that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby [humanity] is very far gone from original righteousness, and of [our] own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.” (The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church: Article VII — Of Original or Birth Sin)
This belief, added to our failed attempts at resisting temptation, compels some to argue, “I sin a hundred times a day and don’t even know it.” This line of thinking always makes me uneasy. I suppose because I don’t believe it’s true. To make this claim is to believe that sinful living is a foregone conclusion. It’s like saying, “A zebra can’t change his stripes or a leopard her spots.” And while it’s true that I have no power to change my stripes, it’s also true that I’m not fighting this thing alone. I believe Article VII, but I also believe Article II: “Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.” God’s grace comes to us in the person of Jesus, and in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Just before his death, Jesus promised the disciples, “The Holy Spirit is coming, and will convict the world of sin and righteousness” (John 16:8). I know this to be true. When I am in the presence of the Lord, I not only become fully aware of the sin that infects my life, I become aware of all that is right and good in the world. “You shall be holy, for I am holy” is possible.
I also know it’s possible to live an entire day without touching my face, but only if I train my hands and use the resources made available to me. In a similar way, our journey as God’s people requires discipline and practice. Beautiful days are possible. Let’s go after them together.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:19-25)