Clean Hands

Posted: September 27, 2005 in Everything

Does it bother anybody else that we live in a world where employees have to be told to wash their hands before returning to work? I mean, come on. If you go to the bathroom, wash your hands! Don’t we all know that? As a matter of fact, I have noticed that some restaurants have taken the hand-washing instructions to a deeper level and have posted “how-to” instructions in the restroom.

How-To instructions!? Don’t most of us wash our hands and don’t most of us know how?

Probably not.

I say that because I frequently go to the restroom and see people walk out without washing their hands. You would think that even if folks didn’t usually wash up after a trip to the toilet, they might succumb to peer pressure and strange looks in the men’s room and wash…but they don’t. Recently, I saw a man in the restroom at church. He did his business, straightend his pants around his waist, hitched-up his trousers, looked in the mirror and walked out. No wash!

You’ve guessed it: I haven’t shaken his hand since!

But I suppose that I should slow down my criticism about non-hand-washers. I should be the last person to talk about being dirty and not knowing it. For the last few weeks I’ve been reading and re-reading the book of Isaiah. It’s an amazing story–both in Isaiah’s immediate context and the prophecies about the coming suffering-servant.

Isaiah chapter 6 has continued to leap of the page at me. It’s where Isaiah receives his call and commission to serve God. Isaiah, like me and those guys who don’t wash their hands after they go, is dirty and doesn’t know it. Well, he discovers it when he is given a hems-glimpse of God and he is forever changed. The prophet exclaims, “Woe to me! I am lost, for I am a man of unlcean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of host.”

Wow! When Isaiah sees God, he realizes that he has forgotten to wash up. He had been–like so many of us–going about his busy day, doing his thing, but then God steps in, calls him out and says “go to work, but first, you gotta get clean.” Next in the story, a seraph flies to the prophet touches his lip with a live coal and Isaiah’s guilt departs and his sins are blotted out.

I suppose there is something of authenticity in Isaiah’s call. Not the kind of authenticity that says, “I’ll be different just to be different and call myself authentic,” but rather an authenticity that realizes who we are and who God is. It’s an authenticity that acknowledges that we are the desperate ones, we are the sinful ones, we are the ones with dirty hands–hands that had other people realized where they had been, no one would ever shake them–we are stained, we are tainted.

The restroom may be a strange place for theology, but now every time I see someone walk out without washing, I think to myself, “You know Sean, you’re dirty too.”

  1. Michael says:

    It really is true every thing you have learned, you learned in kindergarten. I know for a fact that Mrs. Mercer teaches in her class the importance of washing your hands and exactly how to do so. Great blog! Great thoughts!

  2. R Debenport says:

    Sean, a possible title for your first published book: “Bathroom Theology: Everything I Needed to Know About God I Learned in the Bathroom” What do you think? Good blog brother.

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