I have a regular problem with one of my big toe nails. It has a tendency to start to grow inwards. And so every 6 months or so, I have to attend to a minor operation and cut the offending nail out. (Note that this procedure is self inflicted. )
Not having a bathtub, the procedure normally takes place in the shower, where my feet will soak and I will sit on the floor, contort myself to cut my toe nails and begin the extraction process. The bit of nail I extract is always minute. It’s normally only a 2-3 millimetres long. However if I leave it longer, it grows longer and the extraction becomes a more painful and lengthier procedure.
Simply put, it hurts like Billy Oh! But the relief that comes, when the offending part comes out is indescribable. Interestingly though, the toe doesn’t hurt when I start the cutting process. I never start to trim them because I can feel it growing into the flesh. Some years ago it was a different story. My toe really hurt and was tender to the touch. There I found the nail was close to 5-7mm long curling into the flesh of the toe.
Personal and corporate sin is very similar. It can creep up on us. It can slowly infiltrate our lives. It can slowly, silently and stealthily start its inward creep, curling into the flesh of our lives. Until it has formed a barb and hooked into us. And then we find an infection has set in. We find our flesh defiled. Only in this case, its our minds, our conscience, our spirit and our flesh that is affected. Not only does it affect us personally, if also affects others.
The answer is to keep accountable. To perform regular self assessments of trimming and extraction. Where the physical tools for the nail extraction includes scissors, tweezers, cotton buds and peroxide, our spiritual tools are different. The Spiritual tools are God’s word, people we are accountable to, prayer and a regular devotion time where we soak in God’s word, live in God’s word and allow God’s word to cover, flow through and well up within us.
It’s important to note about the sin extraction process: Just as there is a struggle involving getting the offending piece of nail out of my toe, dealing with our sin also involves a struggle. Some struggles are harder then others. And while it is painful at the time; it is also liberating. For there is no condemnation in Christ. Only forgiveness, peace, freedom and joy.
Finally its important to note that within the framework of sin, Jesus has completely overcome sin on the cross. The penalty has been dealt with once and forever. And forgiveness of sin is complete. And therefore we find it is the Holy Spirit who is the master surgeon, cutting, pruning and trimming our spiritual lives, extracting the sin from us and at the same time reminding us that there is no condemnation, only forgiveness through Christ Jesus our Lord.