Tobey has recently been on a bit of a purging kick … which (as those who know me well will surely guess) makes me quite happy. Goodwill is my friend, and I love to give him gifts! And lately I can say ditto regarding craigslist.com! Indeed, it is amazing to me, when you post an item under the “free stuff” category, how many emails and texts you get within the first 15 minutes! It makes giving things away a breeze!
But there has been one exception – “the black couch,” as it will ever affectionately be known to us and our children (to set it off from “the red couch” in our bedroom). It served us well for a good 12 years (and other family members for many a moon before that!). And it was perhaps the most comfortable napping spot I have ever known! But alas, it could really no longer be called “the black couch” – more like “mostly black,” with some faded yellowish-brown areas, and a nice pink stain in one spot. And there were a couple of places where the seams were coming apart. And one section that was torn. And the zippers on the seat cushions were all shot, and hanging wide open. And so it was time for a change. And the church’s Christmas generosity toward us enabled us to make one (thank you!). Now we have “the green couch.”
But what to do with “the black couch”? Craigslist, of course! Surely we could get rid of it if we list it for free, right? I put a couple of other items up for free recently … and had multiple people contacting me for them within an hour of the postings. But “the black couch” … not so much. Only two bites in two weeks … and neither of them ended up taking it. One lady might have taken it, but for the lack of vehicle space. But only one other person even inquired. Reason? Presumably because I was very forthright about the fact that it badly needed re-covering … and even posted a picture of it. And not only did it have the defects listed above, but Tobey recently pilfered part of the fabric for another project … so that two of the sections no longer had any cover at all! It became the black and white couch! And nobody seemed to want it … even though it was free!
Why not? It was actually quite a comfy couch. And, though it was far from brand new, and had a loose spring or two, I think it was in decent structural shape. But the problem was the adornment, the packaging, the cover. That, dear reader, was so bad that even the free section on Craigslist couldn’t give it away!
And all of this is driving toward a spiritual punchline … because the talk of our couch’s adornment (or lack thereof) echoes the language of the apostle Paul, when he wrote that Christians should “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2.9-10).
Now understand carefully what Paul is (and is not) saying. We Christians are not the doctrine ourselves. Your testimony is not a substitute for the truth of the gospel, which comes in words, from the Bible (Romans 10.17)! “The doctrine of our Savior” – the word of the gospel – is indispensable! No one will ever be saved simply by watching you live for God. But you can, by your godly behavior, “adorn” the doctrine that does have the power to save! You can, by your outward testimony, attract people to the substance that lies beneath it. Or your testimony can be so faded, and stained, and torn, and broken, and even missing in some places that – like the crummy cover on our couch – it drives people away from any interest in the solid gospel substance that (allegedly) lies beneath!
The gospel – like our couch – is on offer for free! We are giving it away! But does your testimony draw people to it? If your testimony were posted like a photo on Craigslist, would it attract people to what we are trying to give away … or repel them from even taking an investigative look?
And how sobering is it to remember that your testimony is being published every day – even more broadly than an online photo. Your children, and co-workers, and neighbors, and unbelieving relatives see it in live action all the time. Is it attractive, kind, joyful, winsome, pure, possessing integrity, reliable, humble, forgiving, and willing to admit when it is wrong? Or is it the opposite? Or perhaps a mixed bag of the two? Go back through that list of character qualities and think about their opposites. Are there areas in your life in which the wrong side of the coin shows up as the picture alongside your posting of the free offer of the gospel? Where must you turn to Christ and ask Him to come and stitch, re-cover, or perhaps altogether replace your adornment? Run to Him today for mercy and for help! And do what you know that you must do to repair the adornment that is your testimony. God will honor that! And, with a beautiful cover adorning the gospel that is the substance of your life, who knows how many people might track you down to ask about what it is that you are giving away for free!