Friday, April 18, 2008

Termites

An infestation was recently discovered along the north wall of our church offices. We were in the process of removing the old wallpaper so that the office could be painted, when we found black mold and the tell-tale burrows of termites. A little more peeling back on the wallpaper revealed not only places in the wall where the drywall had been entirely chewed through, but a big wad of actual termites, all of which promptly fell to the floor only to swiftly crawl back to their burrows. The Orkin Man was duly dispatched to deal with the creepy-crawlies and I’m sure that as you are reading this that most, if not all, of them have departed this life. Regular, detailed, inspections will soon be part of office life from now on, so the problem does not recur.

After my initial reaction to the nastiness of discovering the critters burrowing behind our walls died down, their presence got me thinking. Because one of the things about termites is that they can be present for years, silently chewing away. Undetected, they can ruin a building without much noticeable sign of their presence until the day when they have done enough damage that something collapses. Which is a lot like certain kinds of sin, like lust or envy, pride or perhaps gossip. These aren’t necessarily obvious to others nor are they usually immediately destructive. No, like termites, these do their work quietly and silently, for the most part: a little bit of callused soul from unrepentant sin here, a little bit of diminished faithfulness to God and credibility there. Until one day, major destruction comes in the form of a broken relationship, a church split, or simply in the form of a soul that has lost its joy in life and its ability to praise and thank and worship God.

As I’ve studied through the book of 1 Timothy, one of the things I’ve noticed is that Paul greatly emphasizes the strong connection between belief and life. He writes in verse 1:5 about love coming “from a pure heart and a good conscience” and speaks in verse 3:9 of deacons being men who “hold the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” These good qualities contrast, in Paul’s mind with those who abandon the faith because they follow those “whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” Clearly, Paul is concerned that we not only believe all the right things, but also that we deal aggressively with all of the “little” areas of sin to which we all are prone. The only effective method I have found for doing this is through accountability: regular meetings with a trusted fellow believer who will help me “pull back the wallpaper” and see what’s hiding under there. We all need somebody to whom we can confess our sins so that we “may be healed” (James 5:16). Such “regular inspections” prevent a particular area of sin from becoming a major infestation in our souls.

I only wish a person capable of such things were as easy to find as the Orkin Man...

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