It never fails--while brushing my daughter's hair, she yells out in pain at least once. Long hair is pretty, but, oh, can it be ever painful. My own memories of pain still vivid, I encourage her, I calm her, but I continue to cause her pain as I brush out the tangled mess in her hair.
Sin is like that tangled mess. Maybe it begins as a little thing, we might even call it a 'respectable sin' (everyone struggles with it, right?), but because it's not dealt with--it's not all combed out--it becomes bigger. Like when my little girl rolls in a leaf pile and adds twigs and leaves to her tangles, sin adds sin upon sin and pretty soon you've got quite a tangled mess. Years and years of tangled messes.
So, what's a church to do? Some pastors turn the other way and wash their hands of shepherding their flock. (Run from that kind of church, by the way) Some church leaders may begin the hard work of untangling the mess, but grow weary or frustrated by the lack of progress. Some friends might become disgusted by the tangles and give up on the relationship all together.
Yet, those sin tangles aren't just going to fix themselves. The glory happens when someone picks up the proverbial brush and begins to tackle the tangle. Asking hard questions, giving challenges for change, pursuing in love and compassion. The tangled one might yell out like my daughter does--Stop! Ouch! That hurts me! Yet, the caring one, with vivid sin memories of her own, continues brushing out the tangled mess in order to restore beauty once again.
Whether you are in leadership at church or not, if you are in a church body you have the opportunity to care about others' tangled messes. And they yours! See, sometimes our tangles are in the back of our heads and we can't see them. My daughter adamantly insists that she's brushed her hair and is ready to go, yet, time after time, I find several tangled knots in the back of her hair...right out of her sight. Especially when we can't see our own sins is when we most need the Body to detangle us. But, even when those tangled sins are out in the open, we must set to work, with compassion, and, brush by brush, restore one another.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
Perhaps the worst tangled knots for me to fix are those dainty necklaces in my drawer. You know the pain?! You get one part untangled and another slips away from you and creates a new knot. Ugh! I can easily give up and find a more cooperative necklace instead, yet the tangled necklace soon becomes useless, and even forgotten. In order to restore beauty, in order to minister to each person in the body of Christ, we must pursue and pursue and pursue the tangles.
While it's helpful to do this for one another, there are also sins we must untangle ourselves (although help is beneficial even then). When your sins are clear to you, don't walk around with a tangled mess in the back of your head while the rest of you looks great. Be honest with this sin struggle, pray that God gives you repentance, walk out in that repentance, and see the beautiful fruit!
I doubt you received a 'sin detangler' for Christmas this year, but I highly suggest that before the new year begins, that you consider areas that are tangled up in your life. And, I encourage you to be bold, truthful, and compassionate in helping your friends to untangle their sin messes too. Do the hard work to fight these sins and don't be intimidated by the mess or the protests. What glory we would see in our churches if we fight this good fight!
Now, to go work on that necklace...