There are two types of garden work that get me thinking about sin. Not about a specific sin, but more about the ongoing fight we have against it. Once or twice a year, I have to trim back the blackberries that border the back of our yard. I call the stuff my "moat" because it's almost as good as having a moat around the back; it keeps big nasty animals and nosy humans out of our yard for the most part, without having a fence that blocks the view of our nature preserve (sounds more wild than it is--it's just the wetland park in behind, beyond which is more neighborhood).
Anyway, I feel quite a little bit like Indiana Jones, getting a hold of these long (and I mean long, maybe 15 feet or so, which is triple my height) tendrils of blackberry vine, and whipping them back up the bank and into the yard, where I can chop them up and pack my yard waste bin chock full of them. In the process they occasionally snag whatever I'm wearing or leave little scratches on me in places. My feet get entangled in them and I have to be rather careful not to let them trip me up and win the battle! Afterward I always wash up, and feel so much better, if exhausted! So I think of the entanglements of sin (Hebrews 12:1), and how strong and thorny and snaggy they can be. Well, that wasn't the job that reminded me today. (That one's still to come soon.)
We also have a vegetable garden, which in spite of it being too unseasonably cold to plant useful vegetables yet, is quite hospitable to every variety of weeds. In fact, the dandelions that I find so charming a harbinger of spring in the fields and meadows are a danger flag to me in the back yard--that if I don't get to them in time, my yard will be overcome by virtue of just the slightest puffs of wind gently sailing the seeds to every available patch of land and crack of pavement that isn't otherwise taken. There are also beautiful little weeds that show off their cute little white flowers...right at their prime just now--and if we let those go just a wee bit longer, those darling flowers will have turned to evil little seed pods that pop open at the slightest touch, making even weeding them out into a not-too-helpful seed-planting festival. So both of those weeds are high priority for pulling. Today I got out there with my big shovel, loosening up the roots, some as thick as carrots, plucking them, and throwing them into a pile that would fill our yard waste bin about half full.
There are a lot more weeds, but I don't have the time to attend to them yet. They aren't threatening to multiply like those first two. They're problematic, too--can't plant my vegetables until they're pulled out, and some of them are huge clumps of grass; some are even baby trees and blackberry bushes. Some, such as the plantain, send out little roots in every direction so new weeds can grow attached to the mama plant. I can get to those later (well, maybe the word should be sooner), but I can't ignore them either!
So it is with sin. There are some that want to go to seed. They can even look charming on the surface. When they go to seed, they plant themselves in the hearts of others with whom the sinner is influential, and plant and do their work unless they're weeded out. The attack on them is high priority for the protection of other believers. There are some others that grow big, so that virtues can't grow there instead and produce fruit. There are some with roots that would go deep, and entangle the innards to death or pop out in other places with new baby problems that result from the first one. At any rate, they're all rather urgent to deal with.
There may be new weeds that we never saw before in our neighborhood, that we never thought we'd be troubled with taking root in us. We ought to deal with those right away, because they might be stronger than we expect. There may be seasons where many different kinds seem to be plentiful. We have to use necessary tools to help us, such as Scriptures and the accountability and prayer that trusted friends can provide. Just as using children's plastic gardening tools won't be useful in attacking the weeds in my garden, sweet little poems and sayings that aren't Scripture won't help much in the fight against sin--we need the real thing, the Scriptures that remind us about going to confess our sins to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and about the consequences of sin (James 1:13-15) and about the evil intents of Satan (John 10:10). We may get dirty, tired, and out of breath in the process, but then we can go to Christ and show Him what we've been dealing with and thank Him for His help. He can wash us clean, and make us all fresh and new, like a great hot and soapy shower (Psalm 51:7); and He'll rejoice with us (Zeph 3:17) at the clean new soil where good fruitful plantings can now take hold.
Yesterday as I was weeding (and I still have another day's worth at least!), I found a further stretch to take this talk--I would turn over a shovelful of earth, and find weeds that I had hidden in my haste to loosen the soil the time before. The weeds were not only still alive and green, but thriving and growing, hidden away, where they were not easily found--and eventually they would have been very hard to remove as their already strong roots would have become even stronger. Just as with weeds, it doesn't pay to hide our sins away; tear them out! Uproot them! Expose them to the light of God's healing word, to His forgiveness, to His correction. It isn't as if He doesn't know about them anyway; we needn't fear His condemnation, but instead seek His loving forgiveness, help and instruction. He is absolutely our best ally in killing the sins that so easily deceive and entangle; without His help we can do nothing in this fight.