A couple of weeks ago, as I was washing my hands in a public bathroom, I noticed a sticker on the hand dryer next to me that caught my attention.
It was one of those stickers that all restaurants have to put up that says “employees must wash hands before returning to work.” But unlike most of these stickers that I have seen, this one had instructions for how to wash your hand that included pictures and words to make it as clear as possible.
Here are the six steps to washing your hands that were on this sticker:
All six of these are great steps that give direct instructions. And, in theory, when I apply them to my life, whether it be in a restroom, work, a hospital or at home, they will ensure that my hands are clean and that my life is better off by applying these steps to my life.
All I had to do now was follow the steps, and if I got confused, I could look at the pictures, put them into practice and then my hands would be clean.
I liked the message, until I had to try applying these steps in my life.
Step one was easy. I put my hands underneath the faucet and the water started to run.
Step two got tricky. I put my hands underneath the soap dispenser and nothing came out. But once I realized I had to push the button, I was able to follow step three and four.
But then I got to step 5 and I got really confused. The hand dryer was telling me to get a paper towel? I thought the whole purpose of the hand dryer was to eliminate the need for paper towels. I felt like I was getting mixed messaged from this hand dryer and I was tempted to just walk away from it.
And don’t even get me started on step 6. By the time my hands were dry from step 5, the faucet had already stopped running. Why was that step even there if I didn’t even have to turn off the water myself? Surely this step was irrelevant and someone messed up by putting it there.
You see, when I tried to align the pictures with the tools in front of me, they didn’t match. And since I could not match what the sticker said, my only conclusion was that the sticker must be wrong.
Ok, so maybe I am being a bit irrational and my experience with this hand dryer was not that difficult, but if we are honest, many of us treat the bible in the same way. We hear that the bible has good news and that if we just apply it to our lives, our lives would be better. So we start showing up to church, we join a small group, we study our bibles hoping to figure out what this good news is.
Then we go home, we try to apply stuff and we feel as if it is not applicable. We begin to think that scripture is not applicable. We claim that maybe it worked for people years ago, but our society has changed so much today that the bible is no longer relevant to the busyness of the 21st century.
The “pictures” don’t line up with our life, so we just toss it out thinking it can no longer speak to our lives today.
Just recently I was having a conversation with someone about the book of Genesis and how I love reading through that book. From the creation story, to Abram being called by God, to brothers selling brothers, the interpretation of dreams, stories of revenge, and so much more, it is such a fun book to read.
But my friend looked back at me and said, “I don’t read the Old Testament. I only focus on the parts with Jesus in it because I feel like the Old Testament is irrelevant.”
Everything within me cringed. What do you mean you don’t read it? The Old Testament is as relevant today as it was then. It has a powerful message that we can’t just ignore.
And then it hit me. She was approaching scripture the way I approached that hand dryer. For me, the pictures didn’t make sense because what I had to work with was different than what was on that sticker, therefore, the sticker needed to be ignored because it no longer has a relevant message for people in that bathroom.
But when we approach stuff like that sticker, or even scripture, we can’t just look at what it has to say on the surface, we have to look at the heart of it as well.
You see, rules on a football field are not meant to limit the game, they are meant to protect the health of players. Rules of war are not set in place to limit people’s ability to defend themselves, they are placed to ensure we don’t have mass casualties like we have had throughout history. Marriage covenants are not meant to keep you from enjoying life, they are meant to help you enjoy your marriage to the fullest. And the sticker on this hand dryer is not trying to tell me exactly how to wash my hands, but rather that it is important to wash my hands thoroughly.
You see, before we mark anything off as irrelevant, we must look for the heart of the message and see if it has anything to tell us. I believe that when it comes to scripture, the heart of the message is always to remind us that God is a loving God who wants us to experience life abundantly and free from the oppression of guilt and shame. Everything God does and says leads towards people experiencing full life as they begin to put their trust in God. For me, this is why scripture is always relevant, because the heart of the message is such great news for us today.
So I want to challenge you today to dive into scripture. And when you are tempted to ignore something or simply move past it because you feel as if it is irrelevant, sit with it. Question it. Debate with it. Keep doing this until you begin to see the that the heart of the message will always be relevant for your life.
Together on the journey, Pastor Fernie