Transferring Clean

canstockphoto34838982One of the basic laws of physics is that if you dress a child up for a special occasion—a wedding, a funeral, Easter Sunday, the opera, that kind of thing—as soon as you aren’t looking their clothes will no longer be clean.

Dirt, slime, peanut butter, pizza grease, dog poop—all manner of nasty things will immediately attach themselves to their frilly dress or white shirt. (Why do they even bother making white shirts for little boys? It’s just…cruel.)

You can’t fight it. It’s one of the laws of the universe. Clean clothes on a kid have a profound gravitational effect on anything dirty, filthy, cruddy or gunky.

The directional flow always goes from clean to dirty, never the other way around. You don’t transfer cleanness, you transfer dirtiness. When you “clean” something you are always making something else dirty. Wipe a dirty counter with a clean rag the counter becomes clean but the rag ends up dirty. So then you wash the rag and the rag gets clean but the water gets dirty. Purify the water and the filter gets dirty.

You can’t transfer clean, you can only transfer dirty.

That’s the whole idea behind the clean/unclean concept in the Bible. The people of Israel were to keep themselves separate from the idolatrous people around them because dirt flows in one direction. Encounters with non-Israelites would result, not in the unclean becoming clean, but the clean becoming unclean.




It wasn’t just non-Israelites that they had to protect themselves against, but fellow Jews who had become unclean, whether because they touched a dead body or a menstruating woman. Those things weren’t sinful, but you couldn’t worship until you had been purified because you would transfer the dirt to the sacrifice you brought or to the other worshipers.

Sinners, real sinners as opposed to everyday ordinary sinners, were dealt with more severely; they were ostracized from the community or even put to death.

Got to keep the dirt out, or you’ll all end up dirty.

Christianity doesn’t follow the Old Testament clean/unclean laws, but we still follow the principle. We are told to be very careful who we hang out with, because bad people can be bad influences.

And we have to be careful who we let into our churches, because certain types of sinners might sully our reputations and influence our children.

Dirt flows in one direction. The unclean will compromise the clean.

Because you can’t transfer clean.

Until Jesus came along.

The Jewish leaders were upset because he let sinners into his presence. He ate with them and even let them touch him, thus rendering himself unclean.

Except that’s not what happened. Instead of the dirt transferring to the clean, the clean transferred to the dirt, and both ended up clean.

A woman who for years had a continuous flow of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak, and his clean transferred to her and both ended up clean.

Jesus had supper with a corrupt tax collector and his clean transferred to the tax collector, who made right with everyone he had cheated.

Jesus touched a highly contagious leper and transferred his clean to the leper so that both had clean skin.

Jesus transfers his clean to all who receive him so that we no longer have to fear contact with sinners. We don’t have to worry that their uncleanness will transfer to us if we let them into our faith community. We can welcome them and let them know that the clean of Jesus has been transferred to them.

When Paul tells us to separate ourselves from the world he’s not contradicting Jesus, he’s saying don’t act like them. You’ve been cleaned, don’t act like someone who isn’t. You have to be clean to transfer clean.

But clean that won’t contact dirt can’t transfer clean.

Light under a bushel can’t be seen.

Salt that touches no food can’t flavor anything.

But you don’t have to fear the dirt and protect yourself from contact with it.

The clean of Jesus protects even as it cleans.

So, go ye therefore…

Photo by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Colecanstock

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