Two of my friends were recently in a car accident. They both lived to tell about it, but the car is totaled, and they both will have to spend quite a while getting better. One friend, especially, is now looking forward to weeks, maybe even months, of physical therapy to get her spine back in alignment. It’s going to hurt. A lot. And, since it’s her spine that was most affected, there are a lot of things she won’t be able to do until she’s completely healed — things that wouldn’t be a problem ordinarily.
That got me thinking.
I’m a sinner, “wrecked” by sin, if you’ll pardon the bad pun, “lost and ruined by the Fall,” as the song goes. I know from experience that if my back goes out, or I sleep the wrong way on my neck, or get too tense, my whole body feels it — not just the parts that are directly involved, but everywhere, and the longer it goes on unaddressed, the worse it gets. The same is true of our sin: even something that seems small and insignificant can start to take over our lives.
A couple of months ago, two of my dear community group sisters saw one of those kinds of sin in me. As I stood in front of them crying, they lovingly and gently called the sins of my heart to my attention. They showed me where I was deceived, where I was sinning, where I had erected idols, and they pointed me to the truth. They humbly admitted their own similar failings and told me of the Lord’s work in their lives as they had submitted to His correction.
But, thanks only to the grace of God in restraining me, I kept my big mouth shut. What I wanted when I poured my heart out to these wonderful, compassionate women was a band-aid. I wanted them to say, “Oh, there there, it’s all right, you’re just so sweet and we can’t understand why something like this would be happening! Shame on those other people!” I wanted them to pat my shoulder and give me comfort, not point out my sin! But Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
My friend’s physical therapy is going to take a long time. But wouldn’t it be foolish of her not to go through with it simply because she knows it’s going to be unpleasant? The fact is, she’s already injured, and she’ll take the only wise course of action over the next few months as she recovers — she’ll obey the instructions of her doctors and keep working at it, no matter how difficult or interminable it seems.
And that’s true for us as well. We’ve already lived with the grave and deadly injury of sin, but God by His grace has placed us in a community founded on the Healer, Christ, and imbued with the Holy Spirit, that great diagnostician. And when a believing friend loves us enough to obey God’s command that we “exhort one another every day, as long as it is still called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13), shouldn’t we humbly listen to their exhortation, before it’s too late — before our hearts are hardened?