In the 1990s, some marketing expert came up with the idea of purple sunscreen. In theory, purple sunscreen was a good idea. Before the color faded away, it allowed parents to easily see where the product had been applied and where more was needed. My wife and I thought it was a good idea too—right up until the time our four-year-old daughter excitedly brought it into our living room to show her grandpa. The problem with this picture was that Emily was carrying it upside down with the cap open. Needless to say, when it was all over, we had a long purple streak that started in our hallway and went all the way into our living room. And unfortunately, this streak was on cream-colored carpet that was less than a year old.
We felt terrible. Emily felt worse. Every time she saw that stain, she saw her mistake. Each time she saw that purple mark, she was reminded of her error. She could relate to King David’s words in Psalm 51:3 after he was confronted with his sin. He said, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” My daughter’s mistake was right there before her on the floor. And it was purple.
Each one of us, like Emily and King David, can see the stain of sin in our lives. We see it all around us. We see it in messed-up relationships. We see it in sick and decaying bodies. We see it in shootings, bombings, wars and genocide. But most of all, we see it in the sinful thoughts and attitudes that flow out of our very own hearts. We, like everyone else in the world, have a sin problem—a sin problem that originates in our hearts. And that serious problem needs a radical solution. That desperate situation requires nothing less than a miracle.
My neighbor Carmen is a walking miracle. Due to various health issues, she has received a double lung transplant and has endured not one, but two, kidney transplants. Obviously, she had some serious internal problems that could only be remedied by the radical removal of the old unhealthy organ and the replacement with a new healthy substitute. Without the life-giving miracle of organ transplants, Carmen would no longer be with us. Without the gift of new lungs and a new kidney, Carmen would have been without hope.
David understood that he needed a transplant as well. He understood that he ultimately needed the Great Physician to replace his sick and corrupted heart with a new and clean heart. In Psalm 51:10 he cried out, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David knew that his heart was the problem. And his only hope was to receive the gift of a new one—one not stained with the ugliness of sin.
Too often we as human beings think we can fix our internal problem with external solutions. We believe that if we can change our habits or fix our behaviors, the problem of sin can be conquered. But the truth is that a problem as radical as a sinful, corrupt heart can’t be fixed with a makeover. We don’t need a beautician, we need a surgeon! We can’t simply give ourselves a good scrubbing. We need a transplant! The stain is just too deep. Washing won’t solve the problem.
We found out the same thing with our carpet. For hours after the spill, we tried everything we could think of to try to remove the purple streak. We tried stain removers. We tried a carpet steamer. We even tried bleach. But nothing would remove that ugly stain from our carpet. Finally, in desperation, my wife called the manufacturer of the sunscreen to see if they had any ideas as to how to get their product out of our carpet. The woman on the other end of the line didn’t have any suggestions, but instead took down our name and phone number. Not much help! Another dead end—until she called the next day.
We were surprised that a representative of the company would call back and even more surprised with what they wanted. They wanted a couple of estimates. At this request, my wife was a little confused. “Estimates for what?” she asked. “For new carpet,” the woman said, “we are going to pay to replace your carpet.” Needless to say, we were shocked. When we called, we were simply looking for a way to clean up the mess, to find a product to just make the carpet look presentable again. But what we received was so much more. Instead of just having our carpet cleaned, we received brand new carpet. What a gift!
This is what Christ has done for those who have put their trust in him. Jesus didn’t come to tell us to clean up our act. He didn’t come to show us how to put a nice polish on the outside. He didn’t come as an example of how to live an unstained life. None of these would be an adequate solution because God’s standard of cleanliness is absolute perfection.
Instead, Christ came to do something so much more miraculous. He came to give us completely new hearts. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Through an amazing gift of grace, he has removed an old, diseased, corrupted heart and put in its place a brand new one. He has removed our hearts of stone and given us hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). It is a great exchange that is summed up by Paul: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). What an amazing and unexpected gift we have received!
Rev. Dale Hexum serves Good Shepherd Lutheran Brethren Church as Pastor to Youth & Families in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.