Losing My White Coat
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:5
In medical school, while in the clinic or hospital, I wore a short white coat to signify that I was still just a student. Upon graduation though, I got a long white coat, indicating that I’d graduated to physician. With that coat went certain behavioral expectations. If I was a physician, I needed to act like it. Much later, when my addiction and opioid diversion came to light then, the state medical board stepped in and, though they didn’t physically take my white coat away, they did forbid me from practicing medicine. For a while at least, I couldn’t be a doctor because I’d not been acting like a doctor. I hadn’t been living for the mission of serving others, but rather, I’d served only myself and my self-destructive nature. I was a fraud. If I wanted my white coat privileges back I had to radically change my behavior.
This is what today’s passage reminded me of. In the passage, Jesus chastised those in the church of Sardis who’d soiled themselves by immersing themselves in the sin of the culture around them. He also commended those who’d kept their clothing white. These were the ones whose faith in Christ affected their behavior. They lived what they believed, which proved their faith was real. Those with authentic faith were clothed in white and had their names written in the book of life. The reciprocal is assumed – those whose clothes were filthy did not have their names written in the book of life. They may have gone to church and they may have called themselves disciples of Christ, but their behavior confirmed that they were not.
This is a tough passage. We know we don’t save ourselves by our good works. Salvation is a free gift of God accepted through faith. If our faith is real though, it must have some impact on our daily lives and behavior. If we claim faith, but follow only ourselves, then we’re not clothed in white and our names are not written in the book of life. If we live only for ourselves, we’re like the physician diverting opioids for his own use – we’re frauds. The sobering reality of the passage is that there are those who think they have the white coat – those who think their names are written in the book of life – who’re fooling themselves. If our faith is real, it must affect our daily behavior. We may fool some people, but we cannot fool God.