Have you ever noticed how messy things become when you are trying to clean?
Take cleaning out the garage, for example. When you begin sorting through the junk, cleaning up tools, etc., it isn’t long at all before your hands are greasy and your clothing is muddy. The end result may be a clean garage, but you will have to take a shower and wash your clothing in order to remove the dirt that at one time was in your garage!
We notice the same phenomenon on the emotional level. When we are with someone who is depressed, worried or angry, it isn’t long before we begin to feel the same way.
What about on the spiritual level? If we are around sinners, will we absorb their sin?
Throughout the books of Moses, we see many interesting reference that would indicate that sin is transferable. Take the instruction, for example, in regards to the scape goat: “He will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat…” (Lev. 16:21 NLT). This is not without cost to the High Priest, for the next verses tell us: “…he must take off the linen garments he was wearing…Then he must bathe himself with water in a sacred place…and go out to sacrifice a burnt offering for himself and a burnt offering for the people. Through this process, he will purify himself and the people, making them right with the Lord.” (Lev. 16:23,24 NLT)
We get another glimpse of how sin can be transferred inExodus 29: “Each day you must sacrifice a young bull as a sin offering…Afterward, cleanse the altar by purifying it; make it holy by anointing it with oil.” (Ex. 29:36 NLT). Thus the bull receives the sins of the people; but the altar it touches becomes defiled and must be cleansed and made holy again.
If sin is so highly “contagious” that the people–and even the altar–that touch those “sinful” animals are now in need of cleansing, then it certainly stands to reason that reaching out to those who are entrenched in the dredge of sin also puts us at risk for compromise. Even if we find ourselves so appalled by what we see that there is no way we would ever fall into the same traps, we might find ourselves at risk for the sins of pride or self-reliance, or even of developing the “holier-than-thou” attitude.
The point is, whenever we do our part in the “cleaning up” process, be it in the garage, the city slums or anywhere in between, we are at risk for receiving some of the “dirt”!
Does this mean we shouldn’t try to reach out and help people?
Not at all! The Bible is very specific that we are to help one another: “We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” (Rom. 15:1-2 NLT)
It is important, however, for us to be aware of the fact that helping out in a cleaning-up project puts us at risk of assuming some of the dirt. In the same way I should wear gloves and coveralls when I clean the garage, it is necessary for us to go into these spiritual “clean-ups” covered in the blood of Jesus. We need to be aware of the risk and pray for God’s Spirit to build a hedge of protection around us that we will not be compromised even in the least way.
How should we dress for helping one another? By knowing who we are in Christ (SeeEph. 6:10-18): by knowing the Person of Truth and having a personal relationship with the One who IS Truth (vs. 14a); by accepting Jesus’ righteousness as our own (vs. 14b); by standing ready for the fight (vs. 15); by having unbendable faith in God (vs. 16); by believing in the power wielded to us by Jesus’ Salvation (vs. 17a. See alsoEph. 1:19-20); by knowing and using God’s Word against the enemy (vs. 17b); and above all, by covering ourselves and each other in prayer (vs. 18).
When we go in so dressed, we will be protected against the transferable power of sin. However, let’s remember that after receiving the sin offering, it was necessary for the High Priest to wash and the altar to be cleansed. In the same way, it is important for us, after we’ve been helping those imprisoned by sin find escape, to make the effort to cleanse ourselves. We need to ask God to cover us with His Spirit and remove any dross we might have picked up along the way.
Helping others? Vitally important; but for our own protection, we must go in properly clothed and we must make an effort to have God cleanse us afterwards!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.