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Clutter bothers me. Dirt bugs me. Messes irritate me. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am a “clean-freak,” but I am certainly uncomfortable in unkempt places. One of the places that I have found that usually never fail to make me uncomfortable—no matter where I am—are public bathrooms.
In response to (or perhaps in spite of) my unease, I have developed a bit of a habit of cleaning these troublesome areas and leaving them a little bit cleaner than I found them. Now don’t misunderstand me, I don’t carry Lysol, brooms, mops and other cleaning supplies everywhere I go. I simply try to pick up the crumpled paper towels scattered about the room, soak up the lakes of water that form around the sinks and wipe up the mounds of liquid soap that accumulate under the dispensers. This “Type-A” routine takes no more than 30 seconds, yet makes the entire bathroom a nicer place for the next guy to walk into.
“Oh, that’s great,” I can hear you saying, “but what’s the point?” Well, I’m glad you asked. In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus tells his listeners “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Jesus does not give any false expectations here. He refers to “His yoke.” All masters have a yoke for their subjects and followers of Christ should expect no different. But Jesus says His yoke is easy, or comfortable. In other words, Jesus is telling them (and us), “I have requirements, I am not a post-modern with no absolutes, however if you structure your life in accordance with the two greatest commandments—Love God and your neighbor as yourself—My yoke will become comfortable and the burden of following a bunch of rules will be light.”
As Christians, we’re called to be “slaves of righteousness.” Paul states in Romans 6:17–18, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Loving God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself is a full-time job. But what does this look like? How does this shake out in day-to-day living? We now come full-circle and return to our bathroom scenario.
If we truly are “slaves of righteousness” and love our neighbor as ourselves, then giving a public restroom a quick face-lift should be no problem. In fact, it should be a joy. Opportunities abound for those of us with easy yokes and light burdens. If latrine duty isn’t your thing, reach down and pick up that trash that’s blowing across the parking lot, or return five extra shopping carts with your own to the corral, or offer free baby-sitting for a few hours each week to the single mom in your neighborhood, or organize the other “easy yokers” in your neighborhood and rake all the leaves some Saturday afternoon, or… the list is endless and the possibilities are available and waiting.
Part of being “salt and light” is taking dominion of this world and making it a little better for those who come after us. We often completely over-engineer the “loving our neighbor” commandment. For many Christians, our interaction with the world outside the four walls of the church is all or nothing. We’ll take weeks to organize a food-drive or a spaghetti dinner, but in the meantime overlook hundreds of smaller “ministry opportunities” because it doesn’t fit our schedule or our expectations. There is nothing wrong with organizing “big” projects, but if we hope to have success with these, we need to be visible at other times as well. If members of XYZ Church were seen all throughout the week doing the menial and common tasks of making the community a better place to live, then more of the community will take notice when the bigger projects come along.
Here is the simple point that I am trying to make with the bathroom makeover. It takes very little time and effort and I am sure that most of the men who enter the bathroom after me don’t even notice. But they would’ve noticed the mess had I left it there. Even though I didn’t make the mess, I can take a few seconds out of my day to make it right. If this habit became a part of my day-to-day routine, I could make a visible difference everywhere I went. Imagine if all of us who carry Christ’s light burden would make this a habit, we could make a visible difference in the whole world. Think about this the next time you’re in the bathroom…or any place for that matter.