One of my favorite church-camp stories was a discussion on the topic: “God has a purpose for every created thing.” The camp counselor and the youth discussed the wonder and the purpose of clouds, trees, flowers, rocks, rivers, animals, and of course human beings. Eventually, one youth asked, was to teach us that there are some things we should just keep our cotton-pickin’ hands off.” Disciples of Jesus Christ get the truth of this answer! God sends reminders to us so that we might avoid sin, and the pains and consequences of sin. God created poison ivy! The poison ivy of life is a reminder to stop in our tracks and go forward with caution. One of the first things I remember learning as a Boy Scout was to recognize poison ivy. In daily living, such “poison ivy reminders” might take the form of a guilty conscience, a good friend’s counsel, remembering a teaching we heard as a child, even remembering something in last Sunday’s sermon.
Unfortunately, sometimes we end up injured by not recognizing the reminders soon enough, or by intentionally ignoring them, thinking “I won’t get hurt this time” or “I can avoid the pain of this sin.” God gives us the choice to avoid the poison. God also gives us the choice to roll in the poison. When we do, the results aren’t pretty. God never wants us to fail. God doesn’t place temptations in our way, or make bad things happen to set us up for failure. God doesn’t create havoc, chaos, poisons, even a death in our lives to turn us away from God. The world isn’t God’s chess game where God moves the pieces around controlling every little thing that happens (as some ancient people believed about their multiple gods).
I believe our God is a God of order, goodness, and love. From the beginning of creation, God UN-DID chaos! God created order and time. God created us for lives of goodness and love. Jesus went to the Cross to carry our sins and offer forgiveness. As disciples, we are invited to bring our sins to the foot of the Cross of Jesus, and place our sins there. Once they’re there, and God, in Christ, forgives us, let’s keep our cotton-pickin’ hands off that sin, once and for all, no matter how appealing it may be to return to them. Cling to the Cross of Christ. Cling not to your sins. Cling not to the poison!