There are not many white flowers in my garden. I revel in the wide array of colors produced by the various plants, and the more color, the better.
The classic Magnolia is a notable exception. The huge, regal blooms in any other color would seem wrong. The fresh, lemon-scented Southern favorite as it opens its buds is a specimen of purity and delicate magnificence. The tree grows very slowly, and keeps its glossy leaves all winter. The one in my front yard is at least 15 years old, and is still quite small at about 15 feet.
In May the buds begin to open, and the flowers continue off and on all summer. When they are spent, they leave behind an impressive seed pod that is often used for winter decorations.
The most notable quality of the Magnolia blossom is its smooth, pure-white appearance. After a few days the blossom turns yellowish and is attacked by insects. Nothing compares to the new blossom as it opens on its first debut.
This purity and cleanness is a reminder of the type of lives that we present to God. Ephesians 5:27 compares the church to a perfect bride, “having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (NASB).
Of course, we know what the reality is. The church and its members have plenty of spots, wrinkles, and such things. This concept of perfection is almost laughable to us. Almost. Notice that Christ presents his bride to himself. If the church did the presenting, it would look more like the filthy rags of Isaiah 64:6. That is not to say, as many do, that the church is full of bad people. On the contrary, this is the best of society, but compared with God’s perfection, we come out looking like filthy rags or worse.
So how is this elusive purity attained? Like my pristine new Magnolia blossoms, we are born sinless, but then are sullied by the world as we come to accept and even adopt its imperfections. Babies are pure in their souls. Jesus says we must become like them as we accept the kingdom. “I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17, HCSB).
Ephesians 5:29 states that Christ nourishes and cherishes the church. Christ is the one who will make us pure; we can’t do it on our own.
But like the drying Southern winds and the relentless insects that dull the pure white petals of the blooms, the influences of our imperfect world will mar the purity that Christ has given us.
You have only to turn on your television to see and hear things that should never be spoken in polite company. The fact that all of our classmates or coworkers can quote from these shows and from equally lurid song lyrics does not make it acceptable to a God who expects purity. Social media also bombards us with impure words and ideas. Christians must be different!
“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you … For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. … Walk as children of Light … trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them: for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:3-12 NASB).
Live purely for Christ.