It started three days ago. This is the short version of the story.
Driving to a doctor’s appointment, I drove through a puddle of something on the highway. The cars before me had flown right through it, so I followed. It was pretty much unavoidable anyway since it covered both lanes. Anyway, I drove through it. Okay, nothing happened. Good. So, I kept driving.
I was running early for a change, so I decided to shop a little before my appointment. I wheeled into a parking space, literally jumped out of the car and rushed into the store. I had about 25 minutes to navigate TJ Maxx. If you’ve shopped there, you know it takes more than a few minutes to cover this “inside flea market” but I was going to give it my best, and I did.
Exactly 25 minutes later I was walking back to my car. As I approached to put my packages in the back, it hit me. The foulest stench ever! I thought, “What on earth is going on in this town?” I didn’t have time to give it a lot of thought; I had to get to my appointment. About 15 minutes later I was at the doctor’s office and when I exited the car, the odor was on that side of town, too. “Wow, something foul is really going on here today,” I thought before dashing inside. Yep, I smelled it when I returned to my car and I smelled it at my next stop. It was then that I realized that it was my vehicle not the air that was smelling.
Walking around my car for a quick inspection I noticed brown stuff on the tires and rear fenders. It wreaked! The temperature was rising and so was the odor, so I went to a car wash thinking it just needed a quick rinse. I paid the attendant to blast my car by hand then drove to my next stop. The moment I opened the car door, the stench hit me. I drove back to the car wash for another rinse. I suggested the attendant focus on the tires, so he did.
Well, my day was pretty much shot so I headed for home only to arrive and find the stench was even stronger. I drove to a local car wash where the attendant scrubbed the tires before I drove through the automatic wash; this particular car wash offered an undercarriage wash feature – just what I needed! Returning home I found the stench still there but much less offensive. I shot the tire wells with a little Febreze and spritzed a little inside the vehicle before retiring for the night. (Yes, the night. “This” car wash business had literally consumed a day.)
While watering my lawn the next morning I caught a whiff of something foul. Yes, my car! For about an hour I scrubbed the tire wells, the rims and the rear bumper. I prayed more Febreze. All seemed well, but I checked about an hour later and spritzed a little more Febreze just in case.
Today, three days later, the stench is knocking me off my feet. My post master suggests that I take my car to a garage and have them place it on a lift so that we may inspect the underside.
It was foul. Actually, it was fowl – chicken poop to be exact! That’s what the brown stuff on the highway was. That’s what I had driven through. And that is what had stuck in the treads of the tires, splattered the tire wells and covered the underside of my car. Between the heat of the day (we’ve had temps in the high 90s all week) and the heat of the car, it was baked on the underside. It was under the hood! It was stuck in the nooks and crannies.
While having my car powerwashed (including the underside, engine and tire wells), I thought – “Hmm, just like sin.” It can seem like nothing or, at most, just a little something. Everyone is doing it. At first you don’t realize the impact, so you carry on as usual. It rears its head a little at first then slightly more. You catch a whiff of it, but you still think it’s no big deal. It is persistent. It will not stop until it has taken over. You read a Scripture or two, whisper an “I’m sorry” and try to make a quick deal with God. But sin is powerful. It is pervasive. It gets into the nooks and crannies of your life and your heart. It gets baked in and baked on.
First, we don’t recognize it as sin. We don’t call it by that name. We dress it up – we made a poor choice, we blew it, nobody’s perfect. We water it down – we made a mistake, took a misstep, goofed. No, we sinned.
Scripture does not describe sin as a “mistake” or a “failure.” God does not excuse sin as “bad behavior” or a “slip up.” Sin is serious; it is violating God’s law, and it is an offense against God (Romans 4:15, 1 John 3:4, Deuteronomy 32:51, Psalm 51:4, Exodus 32:33). Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2)!
A spritz and a spray could not address the root of the foul odor that had attacked my car. I had to remove the source of the odor not just continuously try to cover it with perfume. It took intentional, focused, specific and time-intensive effort. I had to recognize that it wasn’t the air and it wasn’t just the tires. It was chicken manure, and it was caked and dried in the tire tread, tire wells, wheel rims and underside of the car.
Likewise with sin. Scripture is clear that the only way the problem of sin could be dealt with was through an intentional, focused, specific effort. That “effort” was a perfect substitute, Jesus Christ, experiencing the wrath of God for sinful man by dying on the cross and fully atoning our sin.
Understand then, that when you sin, it is not a trivial matter; it is not a mistake. Begin by calling it what it is. Until you do, you cannot address it.