Dishtowels and Hand Towels
February 21, 2011
dish•tow•el n. A piece of absorbent cloth for drying dishes.
hand tow•el n. A piece of absorbent cloth for drying hands.
In case you are wondering, "dishtowels and hand towels" is the French equivalent of the American expression "apples and oranges." For me, one of the most liberating and motivating truths in promoting the Gospel is that there are two entirely different ways to spiritually consider people in this world. These two approaches are as distinct as apples and oranges. Yet I prefer the dishtowel and hand towel image; the two appear to be the same but serve very different purposes.
When I need to dry the dishes at our house, my wife tells me to use a dishtowel. When I want to dry my hands she sweetly reminds me to use the hand towel instead. When I am helping someone who has a shaky foundation of faith, it is helpful to see the world divided in two groups: Christian and non-Christian or believers and non-believers. But when I am trying to help someone who is not quite "there," someone for whom faith has not yet "clicked," the need is different. Considering a world made up of believers and non-believers can build an enormous barrier to this friend who quite honestly is doing the best he can. Why? It positions the two of us in two different categories: "in" and "out" (and guess which one is which). When I deeply care for someone and desire to understand and help him, why would I want to label him as an outsider?
On the other hand it has been so liberating to view the world in these two groups: Those being saved and those perishing. Or as I paraphrase it: those turning their hearts and moving toward God and those turning their backs and moving away.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. —1 Corinthians 1:18
For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life. —2 Corinthians 2.15-16
These two key verbs are in the present continuous tense. "Being saved" and "perishing" strongly describe continuous movement in opposite directions:
Those who are in the midst of changing and opening up and are working all the time at understanding and putting into practice what they've figured out so far.
Those who, because of decisions they have already made, constantly have their radar out and are actively avoiding God at all costs.
Do you see? When I am out and about rubbing shoulders with people I refuse the temptation to classify them as Christian and non- Christian. This frees me to recognize and embrace those who are like me, who are doing what they can to understand and perhaps know God more fully.
Viewing the world this way, we are really on the same side of the fence. When we discuss the Bible together we are all learning and progressing together, me in the knowledge of the God in whom I first put my trust many years ago, they in the budding knowledge of the God they are discovering for the first time. We are both growing, both learning. With this perspective, I am free to serve my friends and they are free to discover truth with no artificial barriers between us.