I wonder how much you value your stuff. What is it amongst your possessions that you prize most highly?
For a lot of people the answer might be a smartphone or something sentimental like a photo album. But for me, especially in this blistering summer weather, I love my far-too-large collection of t-shirts. Yes, this might seem a little sad, but I just think they’re great.
So imagine my horror when I find my fresh new tee crumpled up in the bottom of a bin, covered in what appears to be some sort of bolognese sauce.
A few summers ago I decided to go swimming with my friends, which is always a laugh and perfect entertainment for post-exam boredom. Unfortunately in the process of shoving my clothes into a locker my t-shirt had somehow fallen out onto the soaking changing room floor without me realising. Oblivious I went off for a nice swim, leaving my defenceless t-shirt to be totally saturated with swimming pool water and no doubt trodden on by hundreds of strangers’ feet. Not the best start.
On returning from my swim I didn’t initially notice my missing item of clothing until I’d managed to change back into absolutely everything else, leaving me feeling a bit naked and confused about where it had gone. Realising I would have to go out and face the embarrassment of my situation, I unlocked my cubicle and wandered back to my locker hugging my shivering torso*.
But the missing t-shirt was nowhere to be found. I searched high and low, even taking a humiliating trip to Lost & Found, but it just seemed to have disappeared. Eventually my eyes were drawn to a menacing looking rubbish bin in the corner of the changing room and my heart sank. Surely it hadn’t been put in the bin? I thought it was a pretty decent tee!
I peered in and, sure enough, there was my t-shirt poking out under a heap of crisp packets, apple cores and that bolognese-y stuff. Here I had a decision to make- did I value my t-shirt above what a gross state it was in? Was I willing to reach into the mess of that bin to claim it back as my own?
I don’t want to compare you to something as trivial as a t-shirt, snazzy as it was, but the point is that despite all of our mess Jesus sees the value in us. Despite how fallen and lost and rejected we feel, He loves us so passionately that He was willing to become completely vulnerable and humiliated to win us back. Even though He was pure and blameless He reached down into the rubbish and got his hands dirty for our sake.
That’s how much you mean to God. That’s how much ALL of us mean to God, no matter who we are or where we are in life. But many people have no idea how much they’re worth because they’re not treated with the value God gives them. The poor, the lonely, the enslaved, the bullied; the list can go on. These are the people Jesus sends us to. People who need to know just how much they’re worth.
In the end I decided that my t-shirt was worth reaching into a bin for, but it wasn’t half unpleasant to get it out. In the same way, getting involved in the lives of others is never going to be easy- it demands sacrifice on our behalf. But then when I think about that t-shirt I can’t help but laugh, and when we look back on the lives we’ve been involved in we’ll begin to realise that it’s life in all of its fullness.
*Perhaps I should mention that I’m a bloke, so the toplessness is not as bad as it may seem!
PS Yes, that is my favourite t-shirt. I love dogs, me…