One of the joys of dog ownership is cleaning up after the dogs when they’re sick. Wait, did I say “joys”? I meant “trials.” This time the culprit is our girl, Lindy – I think she may have picked up a bit of a bug, or perhaps she ate too many blackberries from our back yard. In any case, the past week or so has been less than pleasant for all of us. But as I cleaned up after her for the third or fourth time, I thought to myself, “There’s a sermon in this.”
No matter how many times Lindy makes a mess in her crate or in our mud room, Tara and I will clean it up. We’re certainly not happy that she does it, and after a while we’ve come to realize that she doesn’t do it on purpose. That helps to reduce our anger toward her; in fact, when I was cleaning up after Lindy this week, I found myself feeling sorry for her that she felt so sick.
Theologically speaking, the correlation between my relationship with Lindy and God’s relationship with any of his people is pretty weak. In fact, the analogy breaks down at a fundamental level. We often do make messes of our lives: not simply through mistakes, but through something quite displeasing to the Lord – sin. I imagine that our propensity to sin again and again smells pretty rotten in God’s nose.
But sin isn’t quite like Lindy’s sickness. While my dog might get sick because of something she ate, we sin against God willfully, deliberately, on purpose. And to our shame we find ourselves continuing to sin even after we initially accept God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. (Remember my understanding of holiness: we do not become “perfect” in the sense of never sinning again; our perfection lies in wholeheartedly loving God and other people. Sin is still a possibility for those who have been saved.)
How amazing God’s love and forgiveness are, given this recurrence of sin in our lives! I willingly clean up after my dog when she has an accident; God willingly forgives our sins even when we offend him intentionally. I love my dog and remember that she does not mean to make my life difficult; God loves us even though we make his life difficult. God cleans up our messes time and time again – thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Friends, remember that the Lord is slow to anger and abounding in love (Jonah 4:2). Remember that the Lord calls us to live holy lives and that he desires for us to live free from the power of sin. And remember God’s words of comfort and challenge found in Romans 6, which is your reading assignment for this week.