My floors are clean right now. I am really proud of this fact, because it’s terribly rare that I can make such a claim. In an unusual bout of ambition over the weekend, I finally pulled out the carpet cleaning machine I borrowed from my mom three weeks ago and cleaned the living room and dining room carpets. I even used the upholstery tool for the couch and recliner for good measure. Then I swept and steam mopped the kitchen floor so we wouldn’t be dragging its dirt onto the clean carpet. It’s a lovely feeling to walk barefoot through the house and feel the squeaky clean kitchen floor and the like-new living room carpet. But I know it won’t last. The kids aren’t awake yet. Once they wake up and daily life begins, there will be milk spilled or Cheerios dropped and crushed, my baby will find a marker and decide the carpet needs a little more color, and the kids will rush in with muddy shoes to tell me it’s raining. Sigh. It’s almost a lost cause. So why even bother?
Any parent can tell you that cleaning house with young children is a never-ending chore. You scrub the bathroom clean only to walk in and find your toddler “helping” by scrubbing bar soap on the mirrors. You mop the kitchen floor only to have your kindergartener spill a glass of sticky apple juice. You vacuum the house only to turn around and find that your preschooler has been following you the entire time, leaving a trail of graham cracker crumbs in his wake. Sometimes it seems like such a waste of time. But we try anyhow. We know it won’t last, but we try to keep our houses in order to some small degree because no one really wants to live in a pigsty. We take pride in our homes, and are embarrassed if someone stops by unannounced to a total disaster. And in the process of cleaning, oftentimes we are teaching our own kids how to do chores, even if they don’t appreciate the lesson.
Now let me ask you this—when was the last time you did a spiritual cleaning? Many of us would probably say church, when we confessed our sins and heard the assurance of absolution through the pastor. And in all honesty, sometimes even that feels like a lost cause. Sure, we go to church and confess our sins, and we’re probably quite sincere in our contrition, but then we walk out the doors back to daily life and we fall right back into those same pesky sins. So why do we even bother?
Any Christian can tell you that repentance is a never-ending process. We have good intentions perhaps, but do not have the strength to act on those intentions on our own. It’s that whole tension Paul talks about in Romans 7, where he laments that he cannot do the good he wants to do, but the evil he does not wish to do is what he keeps on doing. We all know exactly what he means, don’t we? But we confess our sins nonetheless because of a promise we hear in our Divine Service from Psalm 32:5: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Just prior to that verse, David talks about the consequences of what happens when sin goes unconfessed. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer,” he says in verses 3-4. It is widely thought that he wrote those words after his affair with Bathsheba but before he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. You see, trying to cover up a sin brings nothing but discontent and further guilt. It is only in confessing our sin and weakness that we find the beautiful Gospel assurance of forgiveness.
Dear Christian, never think that confession is a lost cause. We have to be “made dead” in our transgressions before we can be “made alive” in Christ. Take an honest look at your life and confess your hidden sins to God. He knows them anyhow. Pray for the will to turn from those sins. No, you can never stop sinning this side of heaven, but don’t use that as an excuse to keep sinning. Read Romans 6 for Paul’s discussion of being dead to sin but alive in Christ. In the Bible, God promises forgiveness to His children over and over. Thank God that in Christ we have that assurance. We can’t do that ourselves. The action is all on God, as the words of Psalm 51:7 show—“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Now that’s a spiritual cleaning that lasts not just a few hours, but into all eternity.