Forgive me for being sacrilegious, but every time I sing “Jesus Paid It All,” I can’t help but think about ketchup.
My husband played his bass at church last week, and we sang the lines of that old classic spiritual:
Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
While other people were no doubt musing about spiritual things like substitutionary atonement, I was instantly transported to the teenage version of myself. On a big yellow school bus, no less.
I was sixteen, and just a few months prior, I’d made the first major clothing purchase of my life: a beautiful brown suede leather jacket. I’d had my eye on it for a long time, and after saving up my heard-earned babysitting money, I finally made the purchase.
I felt pretty cool wearing it to high school (even if I was mortified to still be riding the bus). One morning I was minding my own business, doing some finishing touches on my homework on the way to school, when all of a sudden I heard a sickening splat. I looked down at the arm of my precious caramel-colored jacket. It was smeared with ketchup, the casualty of crossfire between two punky boys who were apparently having a post-breakfast food fight.
I was, in all the drama of teenagerdom, devastated.
Later Mom and I took the coat to the dry cleaner’s. The lady matter-of-factly told me they’d be able to get the ketchup out but the coat would never be the same. I was crushed. But I also knew I wouldn’t be able to stand smelling vaguely like McDonald’s for any length of time, so I handed over the jacket.
They were right. The coat was never the same again. It lost its velvety finish, and the discolored spot where the ketchup hit its mark never went away.
When I think about the stain of my sin, I have the same fear—that the stain will never come out. And that even if does, I’ll never be the same again. So I hold back from going to the only one who can make me clean again. I try in vain to mask the ketchupy stench that trails me wherever I go.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Jesus’ cleansing abilities are infinitely more effective than the dry cleaner’s. Sin has indeed left its crimson mark on us, but it’s no match for his forgiveness. He washes us white as snow, and leaves us better than he found us.
“Come now, let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool.”
Whatever marred spot you are trying to hide, it’s time to come and settle this. There is no sin too great, no stain too deep, that he cannot wipe it out.
But even so, if you ever find yourself on the school bus with punky kids, I’d advise you to leave the leather jacket at home.