Theology of Laundry

By Cindy Koch

Piles of whites, baskets full of darks. Towels, socks… Oh look, there’s the muddy jacket we’ve been missing. Hours of sorting, stain removing, washing, drying, hanging, folding, returning everything back to the closet drawers. As I’m putting away the last of the PJs and my laundry basket is finally empty, I glance at the little white hamper in my daughters’ room. It’s half full. And the laundry cycle is never over.

Sometimes I dream about a day when all the laundry is finished. There are fresh white towels in every cupboard. But even though the dog pulled it through the fresh backyard mud, it appears spotless and gleaming on the bathroom shelf. There are sweet smelling clothes, perfectly folded and creased, in every drawer. Spaghetti sauce, paint, oil stains, and markers never touch the fibers of this laundry. It is bright and beautiful. Not one button is missing, nor can you find any hole in a little boy’s pant knee. There is never a looming pile of unmatched socks hidden under the bed or forgotten on the bottom of the perpetually full basket. It is all clean.

But one can only dream.

Here and now, our laundry never ends. For every shirt we wear, it will get dirty. Some may be able to preserve it longer than others, but eventually it must be washed. There will always be a load of towels that have dried off the stench of life from our backs. Our clothes will endure unexpected abuse from the elements. Slowly, our laundry will grow older. Blacks will fade, seams will give way, and we see these tattered garments will not last forever.

And we are no better.

Piles of unconfessed sin and dirty thoughts are hidden in our hearts. Words we shouldn’t have said, things we shouldn’t have done stink from our past. Failed intentions and evil desires stain even our best outfit. Our bodies wear thin, and our soiled laundry never stops accumulating.

But we know we have been washed clean, Baptized into Christ’s death and raised to a new life. We hear that a cleansing flood has removed every stain and the load of sin is finished. However, my eyes betray my ears because I am still surrounded by dirty laundry. If Christ has made me clean, why do I still think hateful thoughts? If Christ purified my life, why do I still see death and the devil at work? Do I have to keep on washing my dirty laundry all by myself?

Christ is the only one who could have destroyed the laundry pile, once and for all. He had not a single dirty garment, and so he gathered all of yours and mine together. His sacrifice swallowed our filthy rags. And Christ graciously lays His white robe of righteousness on our bare backs. The laundry is totally done, but our dirty clothes cling to us, waiting for Jesus’ return.

Take heart, friends. The blacks will fade, seams will give way; we trust these tattered garments will not last forever…

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

 “Who are these, clothed in white robes?”

“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:9-10, 13-17

Even now, dirty and smelly, you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Today, you still repent for sin and struggle to remember your Baptism.  But hear about the clothes that are forever yours. Right now, your laundry is finished.