You may have heard about the 300 pound porker that flew first class on a US Airways flight a few years ago. Like an urban legend in the making, this true story is stranger than fiction. Evidently, the pig's owners claimed their pet was a "service animal" - much like a seeing eye-dog - and assured the ticket agent that the pig was only 13 lbs. Based on the available data, this swine flew.
When the pig showed up it became obvious this was no small chop. Despite permission from a physician, a sow is not fit for flight. Most people know this and so the flight attendants and some passengers protested. But to no avail. Sure, the pig slept most of the 6 hour flight, but a pig-in-a-blanket is still a pig. And I can assure you, upon arrival the clean-up crew did not squeal with delight.
It just goes to show you, you can't smuggle a pig anywhere.
Sin is like that too. We may think it's just an itsy-bitsy, cutesy-wootsey little thing. We may have a note from the doctor. We may even convince a few strangers to buy a pig in a poke. But it becomes obvious to all - sooner or later - that we're wallowing in our own foolishness. You can't smuggle sin around for very long without making a stink of things.
I know this first hand. So do you. So what should we do? Galatians 6:1 & 2 are verses to cherish: "Sisters and brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore this person gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Restore. Watch. Carry. Fulfill. These are community verbs. Action words that can only "work" in relationships of trust and mutual love. Without the net of a spiritual family - brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle along side one another - the follower of Jesus will just stumble along, alone. And maybe he or she will journey on without mishap. But very likely, the Christian will fall under the weight of his or her own sin. For sins tend to piggyback.
One sign of smuggling sin around is obvious. Isolation. When people begin to withdraw from the fellowship, you can rest assured something is terribly wrong. But when you lovingly reach out to these folk, you often get a mumbled response. You can hear the echoes of their excuses: "I don't need the church. I can be a Christian on my own. My spiritual life is my own business. I'm finding my own path toward God." There's a whole lot of independence in those statements. But that's the way some people choose to cope with sin. They look for easy answers and take their cues from ear-pleasing voices.
Sadly, many of us do the same thing when we turn from the outstretched hand of a friend in Christ. Instead of reaching back we often wrap up our failings and try to smuggle them from one destination to the next. But this flight always leads us away from healing and wholeness. Choosing isolation is choosing to turn away from the very instrument that God wants to use to bring us to completion in Christ: the Church.
For one of the primary means by which God transforms us into Christlikeness is the Body. Jesus longs to touch us through the restorative touch of a friend. Ignoring the gracious hand of God is like refusing a lifesaving treatment guaranteed to heal our wounds. Now that would be silly, wouldn't it? Or, if I may allude once more to our running metaphor, it's just being pigheaded.
Haven't we learned by now that we can't arrive at journey's end without some help along the way? We need one another. Still, we persist in thinking that we'll get along okay by ourselves. "I'll be alright," we say. "I can do it. I'm okay." Or, if pressed (as we try to cover over our struggles), "I'll ask for help before it's too late." But both you and I know when we'll make that admission. When pigs fly!
© 2005 Lyndon Perry
Permission granted to reprint this article.