From Hellfire to Laundromat – Brad Jersak

TURN OR BURN BE WASHED!

“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come into His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant, whom you desire.
Behold, he is coming,” says the Lord Almighty.

“But who can endure the day of His coming?
And who can withstand His appearance?
For He enters like a refiner’s fire
And as soap in one’s wash!”

Malachi 3:1-2

FIRE is the dominant image for divine judgment across the Scriptures. The Fire image varies from foreign invasions to the passionate love of God for his bride. The Fire image can signal forthcoming destruction or purification for glory.

While biblical fire is a dominant image with a wide range of meanings, preachers from every era seem to imagine it as the exclusive metaphor for judgment and reduce it solely to destructive purposes. It as if they can only read it through the lens of eternal conscious torment in Revelation’s “Lake of Fire.”

What if we were just as obsessed with another image?
What if we gave equal weight to another biblical picture: SOAP.

Imagine the revivalists raving: Instead of “Turn or burn!” what if they applied equal conviction to preaching soap water rather than hellfire?!

“Unless you clean up your act, God will put the soiled garments of your lives through the laundry! And all those messes you’ve made will be washed away! And all the stains in your wedding gown will be cleansed! Beware the SOAP my friends! Because when God is done with you, you’ll be sparkling fresh, with robes that gleam like sunshine, just like Christ’s!”

And what if the same ‘judgment’ (assessment?) were embraced in the here and now? What if the call to repent is an invitation to bathe? You know…as in baptism?

“Brothers and sisters, no need to wait for the final day! The Lord of the laundry is already cleaning up spills, washing feet, cleansing consciences, and putting his bride for a deep cleanse in his spa! Manicures, pedicures, saunas, and steam rooms. Ah yes, here’s the baptismal tank. Come on in! The water is fine! Be refreshed, my darling!”

This is not swapping out one gospel for another. What we see here is the same gospel refreshed by picking up a significant constellation of related biblical metaphors that have been neglected. And why? Weren’t they scary enough? Well, maybe we’re due for a gospel that drives out fear rather than depends on it. Just sayin’.

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Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More