My brother walked into church sometime ago on a Sunday, a few minutes late, somewhere in the early part of the service.
Inoticed him slide into one of the pews in the back, not thinking anything of his tardy entry. After service, I saw that his hand was wrapped in paper towels, blood stains seeping through in multiple places. He took them off to show me and I could see deep puncture wounds, still bleeding, and a fairly severely swollen hand.
“Dude, what happened?” I asked.
“My dog wouldn’t get out of my car this morning, just went ape, so I went to grab him by the collar, and he started biting me, ferociously. Wouldn’t let go,” he said.
This wasn’t the first time the dog had shown aggression. I’d been at his house on numerous occasions and, seemingly out of nowhere, the dog would get aggressive, bark, and could not be tamed. He’d tried to bite another neighbor. Several other friends had expressed serious concern.
I’d talked to him several times before about sending the dog back to the animal shelter, or possibly having it put down. It had known behavioral issues, and instead of dealing with the problem, one owner after the other kept dropping it off for somebody else to deal with. My concern was that the dog displayed traits of abuse, worrisome signs of aggression, and was consistently uncontrollable. As a pit bull and Lab mix, the dog was powerful enough to do serious harm, especially with children nearby.
Like so many problems in life, he kept justifying the dog’s behavior. He’s had a rough past. He’s been abused. He is good, sometimes. He knew the dog was a serious problem, but he couldn’t bring himself to do anything about it. So he put it off. Just like we all do.
Over lunch, as my brother held his hand in throbbing pain, I looked across the table and told him, “This ends today.”
He asked what I meant.
“We’re going to kill that dog. If you can’t do it, then I will.”
And that’s exactly what we did. I told him to stay at his truck. I took a rifle, walked over the hill, and shot the dog. When I returned, he said, “It’s finally over.”
Be killing sin or it will be killing you. John Owen
There are countless people in your life who’ll tell you how to deal with your problems, but very few who’ll help you do the dirty work of actually putting sin to death, facing your enemies, and walking in the often painstakingly difficult paths of repentance. We know that if we get involved in another person’s problems, it will cause us untold amounts of emotional, temporal, and sometimes monetary difficulty. We’ll be inconvenienced, and worse.
Soft men make excuses for why they can’t help. It’ll complicate relationships. Cost money. Invade their time. They’ll offer words of advice but stand at a distance while others battle the flames of suffering and sin. “Be warmed and fed,” they say, from the other side of the street.
I’ve had my fair share of failures to help others in need. I’ve been soft with my sins and theirs. But on that day God gave me clarity about the weight of that moment, a hardness to act in my brother’s life in the way he most desperately needed. Sometimes we’re too weak or compromised by our sin to take the necessary action. It’s wrapped its tentacles all around us, and we’re paralyzed. Jesus said “Cut it off,” and we know we must, but can’t.
And you need the kind of friend, in moments like those, who’ll stand in the breech for you, line up the sights, and pull the trigger.
We were never closer, my brother and I, than at that moment.
Listen, nobody wants to do the bloody, emotionally disturbing work of putting something to death, an animal or sin. It ain’t pretty. But that’s what hard men do.
My brother said, on the pensive car ride back to town, “You know, that dog was the perfect picture of my sin. I play with it, downplay what it’s doing to me, and ignore the danger it was to my life. I had grown grotesquely fond of it, even though I hated it. And it would have destroyed me. And you killed it for me; it had to die.”
Do we care enough about our brothers and sisters in the church to intervene when we see sin ravaging their lives, just like that dog threatened my brother? Yes, they’ll probably be mad at first, and maybe for a long time afterward. You’ll have blood on your own hands.
But you may just save a life.
And in any event, you’ll be able to stand tall knowing that you played the man. You didn’t whimper, cower, or flee. You stood proud, acted like a man, and have the scars to prove that you were in the fight.
In my own soul, something courageous happened that afternoon. It was the feeling you might have had if, as a lion on his pride rock, you’d shaken out your mane and roared your enemies out past the horizon, fleeing in fear. I’d stared the dragon in the face, taken up my spear, and stabbed him through the heart. And it was good.
Hard men will be killing sin.