Thursday, February 02, 2006

Life on the Farm:Spiritual Insights from Rural Living

Goatee: Untangling and Untying from Sin

I was apprehensive when my ‘friend’ offered us a goat, but Benjamin’s face grew a grin. Ten year old boys don’t understand what’s involved in caring for goats, and Dad’s can’t forget when they were ten. We took the goat.

He was medium size, a long beard, long brown and black hair, and a pair of well developed horns, but his temperament was calm and he ate everything. This eating thing was my personal ambition for our new “pet”. We have lots hillsides growing briers, vines, poison ivy and such that are too steep for a tractor or mower and too large for a weed eater, unless it is a four legged weed eater.

Josh named him, Goatee.

We don’t have goat-proof fencing and Goatee doesn’t realize that I only want him to eat in certain areas. So, Goatee wears a long leash. Each morning we locate him on those steep banks or in other areas where he’ll enjoy eating all day tethered to a tree, an old tire, a post or some item that he can’t drag away. He gulps the most amazing stuff: thorny briers, vines, leaves, berries, bark, pine needles, almost everything. He’s a real eating machine, which I like very much. And so, this is an almost perfect arrangement. Almost.

The problem is Goatee’s leash. It gets tangled. He goes round and round trees, brier, vines, gets hooked under rocks or stumps. When he’s stuck he starts bleating. When Benjamin sees Goatee is tangled he has to untangle him and re-tether him again. Without that leash on his neck he’d roam those steep banks freely. That would be perfect.

Yesterday, a lady called me in distress. Her electric bill was overdue and the electric company was threatening to cut off service. She’d called before on several occasions, always with a catastrophe. So, I listened to her story. Her daughter is in jail for drug use, she and her current husband are separated, but he is living with her because his black lung check was stopped due to “someone else’s mistake”, She doesn’t get along with her ex-husband either. She is on disability for her back. All her family is estranged from her and ….. You see the situation.

I know this lady. Her real problem is that she is tethered to Sin. Sin keeps her life in a tangle of troubles. So, I clearly told her, “You know. I’ll help on your electric bill. I don’t mind that, but (her name) you need God in your life, or things like this are going to continue to plague your life.”

She replied, “Oh. I’ve been saved. I go to Church-- when I go-- to the XYZ Church.”

I interrupted her, “I not saying you need to go to church. I’m saying you need God in your life.” She didn’t understand.

What she thinks she needs is someone-- like Goatee needs Benjamin -- to come along ever so often and straighten things out. It is flawed thinking. She doesn’t need someone to untangle her messes; she needs someone to remove her leash.

All of us need is our yoke removed. We need freedom from our addictions; freedom from guilt; freedom from the power of sin in our life; freedom from that which ‘so easily entangles’. (Hebrews 12:1f) People need to be set free.

Yes, we serve those around us. We feed, we clothe, we comfort, we pay their bills, we listen to their stories, we hold their hand, we do all of this and more. What ‘more’? We go beyond their felt needs and address their ultimate one: we boldly, lovingly, courageously tell people, “You have a leash. You need to take it off.”

Satan leashes and tethers people. Helping our neighbor’s hurts, without addressing the tether is dishonest, short sighted and cheap. Christians who only love the body are either ignorant or cowardly. Certainly, we feed mouths, like our Lord did, but we also, like our Lord, seek and save the lost. We untangle their messes, but we also take them to Jesus who said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has …has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed...” Luke 4:18-19

The Body of Christ has done a fair job of untangling messes, but too often, we’ve left the people tethered. Let’s resolve afresh to set the captives free, knowing that whatever we loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.

No comments: