You go to the airport, check in, get your passport scanned and walk round the corner to see how long the queue is at the dreaded security. Herded like cattle through a slalom of retractable ropes, you finally arrive at the queue and you wait. Often you wait, and you wait.
There is a member of staff who will direct you to one of the five points on a desk at which you will be required to follow the instructions of the all powerful security staff. Even as you slowly approach the desk, loaded down with your one allowable piece of hand luggage and the various things in your hand, you have managed to prepare for the ordeal that awaits you. A member of staff in uniform, often chewing gum, sometimes wearing sun glasses, is barking orders at you. Staccato commands and questions on repeat: “Have you got a laptop in there?” “Wallets, keys, phone, coins, empty your pockets.” “Belt off.” “Shoes off.” Seasoned travellers have prepared beforehand; for them it’s a smooth taking out of small transparent plastic bags with travel toiletries, neatly packed, laying them down carefully in the tray.
The women smartly dressed on business travel does this routinely. Calmly. Then there’s the tracksuit wearers unfamiliar with the new regime struggling to manage unruly children. You stand there sheepishly and unload your pockets: keys, phone, wallet, and coins (where did I collect all these coins?). The coat comes off. “Your watch, your watch” the staff member commands you. It is all placed in the tray. Does the jumper come off or doesn’t it? It’s these sorts of decisions can paralyse a man at an airport.
The belt is undone, the shoes off. You can’t think of anything else. You watch the staff slide your tray of belongings on to the moving belt. You take your bag and put it in a second tray. “Take the laptop out” comes the impatient order. Conscious of the ever growing queue behind you, you do as instructed.
Everyone has to do it – black and white, young and old, men and women, rich and poor, educated and uneducated – there are no exceptions. There is no going through security without divesting yourself of your valuables, your metals, your phones etc..
You stand again in a queue, naked of your belongings, in your odd socks, twitchy because you’ve been separated from your iphone. You wait to go through the human scanner, praying the thing won’t beep, and then you will be allowed to walk sheepishly to pick up your things.
There is no other way to enter the flight. You can hang on to your valuables, you can refuse to take off your belt, but you won’t catch the plane.
I was preaching on the end of Romans 3 last Sunday and Paul speaks of boasting about being excluded. To enter into the kingdom we have divest ourselves of our all so called works. It is so hard for us to empty our pockets, to take off our belt and our shoes. To hand overselves entirely to God. To recognise we bring nothing. We come with empty hands to God, to be exposed. We trust in the good works of another, in Christ’s righteousness.
At the end of Romans 3 Paul is saying empty your pockets and come by faith in Jesus Christ to God. Stop your boasting. You can try and hang on to your good works, your badges of orthodoxy, the things you treasure in this life. But you will not enter the kingdom of heaven unless you take them all off and trust in Christ alone.
Isaac Watts in this magnificent hymn expresses it well.
No more God, I boast no more
Of all the duties I have done
I quit the hopes I held before,
To trust the merits of Thy Son.
Now for the love I bear His Name.
What was my gain I count but loss;
My former pride I call my shame,
And nail my glory to His cross
Yes, I must and will esteem
All things but loss for Jesus’ sake:
O may my soul be found in Him,
And of His righteousness partake!
The best obedience of my hands
Dares not appear before Thy throne;
But faith can answer Thy demands
By pleading what my Lord has done.
The way in to the Christian life is the way on in the Christian life. A daily emptying. A daily repenting. A daily handing over. A daily trusting.
Empty your pockets.