When my children grow up and move on to do all the great things I – oh sorry, I mean – God has planned for them, I hope they look back at their time in this family and know one thing is true – that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life!
Unfortunately, as is the case with most families, this absolute truth has a chance of getting lost in the mix of other things we hold dear as parents. For some it may be the importance of a certain sport or team, for others it’s a style of music or career goal, and still others a specific character trait or attitude.
For my kids, though, I worry it may be this: That public toilets are the source of all evil.
Before I go on, let me say that I am so thankful for the existence of the “public restroom”. As adults, we may have the ability to ‘hold it’ until we get home, but with little ones, that’s not always possible – and definitely not a risk any parent wants to take! With the advent of your first potty-trained child, you become acutely aware of the location of the restrooms in places you frequent.
However, there are times when the risk of having to deal with wet clothes or a smelly car seem overshadowed by the much greater risk of allowing your small child to sit where who-knows-who’s germ-covered-self has also sat or where some poorly-aimed-squatter has also attempted to avoid who-knows-who’s germs! YUCK!
In our family, it’s near-gospel truth that public toilets are to be avoided at all cost. And if you can’t possibly hold it, you must abide by the following rules:
- The seat must be wiped first (even if it doesn’t “look” dirty)
- If there’s a seat cover available, you must use it (it may not help, but it makes your Mommy feel better!)
- Absolutely NO hands on the toilet seat (even if you think you’re falling in)
- Flush with your foot (Yes, I understand this may require an extraordinary feat of balance)
- Even if you “didn’t touch anything” your hands must be washed (the air in there is surely just as filthy!)
- If you so much as think about touching that door handle with your bare hand on the way out, you will be washing those hands all over again!
No matter how slight the risks of being exposed to dangerous bacteria or contracting a virus may be, this is a life-or-death situation and if my rules aren’t followed, watch out, because a mommy-freak-out is on the way!
When Jesus used the word we translate as “gospel”* in His teaching, He was speaking of the “glad tidings” or “good news” of “the kingdom” (see Matthew 4:23, 9:35 & 24:14). In Luke 4:18, He explains why this news was so “good”:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed”
The message of this “good news” became reality when Jesus Himself laid down His life to become a victorious once-for-all sacrifice, restoring whoever would simply believe in Him to a right relationship with God – the source of all true help, healing, and freedom. Now that’s good news!
In 1 Corinthians 15:1, Paul reminds his readers, “of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved”. After Christ’s death and resurrection, the term “gospel” took on a different meaning – rather than just being “good news,” it came to specifically refer to the message of salvation through Christ.
Around the middle of the second century A.D., though, another shift happened, as idioms of “gospel truth” and “take as gospel” came about.** Because the “gospel” message of Christ’s death and resurrection was the central and absolute truth of Christianity, “gospel” began to mean “something regarded as true and implicitly believed” or “a doctrine regarded as of prime importance”.***
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, one of his goals was to clear up some confusion about the gospel. With all of the mixed messages they were getting, He wanted to make sure they understood what was truly at the core of their faith:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
As believers today, we have to be careful about the “gospel truth” we are preaching. We may not be a pastor giving messages from a stage, but our words and actions are constantly communicating what is “of first importance” to us. Are we messengers of the “good news” or is something else being given equal (or even greater) emphasis?
We live in a messy world where it can be easy to live in fear, while consequently (and even unintentionally) elevating the “gospels” of ‘safety’ or ‘morality’ or even ‘tolerance’ and ‘justice’ to “first importance”. It’s not that those things aren’t important or layed out clearly in Scripture, it’s just that it’s way too easy to set up blanket rules and zealous absolutes that distract from the core message of Jesus.
In all of my fretting and freaking about taking my girls to public restrooms, I’ve created a monster. My youngest has developed a magnetic attraction to public toilets – especially port-a-potties! My elevation of the importance of this issue has only drawn my curious, limit-pushing child toward it – accomplishing the exact opposite of my goal.
It’s great to have passion and then to take a stand on those matters we’re passionate about, but when we allow those matters overshadow the most important Matter, there’s a chance we’re missing out. Instead of spreading the message of the best news ever, we may be inadvertently sending people in the other direction. Or even worse – drawing them to ourselves, but never giving them the true “reason for the hope that is in [us]”. (1 Peter 3:15)
We don’t have to be intimidated or antagonized by the mess around us because there’s GREAT news! Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, loves to change people’s hearts and lives (and, oh yeah, He’s really good at it!) True help, healing, and freedom are found in Christ alone.