I heard a loud crash of metal, and looked up to find the origin of this unpleasant noise. I scoped out my surrounding to find that there was a garbage truck, emptying the dumpster from a nearby business into the large garbage truck, but it was losing a lot of garbage as it was doing its work, and making a very big mess in the process of cleaning up the garbage of others.
A reality hit me here. We often do the same thing with the messes in the lives of people around us. People do things that hurt us or they live a destructive life that does harm to others. Likely we, ourselves, have hurt others and done things that brought destruction to others lives to differing degrees…after all, that is what sin is, and we are “all sinners.”
But what happens when someone asks for forgiveness, maybe cleans up their act, gets their life straight, starts making healthy and not destructive choices? Well, in essence, they have picked up their trash, and have put it in the dumpster, for removal.
But what happens next is what I began pondering. Like the garbage worker, we may facilitate taking out other people’s trash–especially if we are in ministry in the church in any way. Did you know the job as garbage disposer is an important one? This may not seem like a great responsibility, but it is. It is in how we deal with the garbage, that we either make a big mess out of it for others, or we neatly assist in bringing the trash to where it belongs in the first place.
I Corinthians addresses the sexual sin of one of the members of the fellowship, and essentially says that that sin needs to be “cleaned up.” The Apostle Paul said that the church needed to “expel the immoral brother” from the fellowship. The church was being affected by the garbage of sin within the community. But it would seem from 2 Corinthians, that the guy at fault here actually turned his life around and was grieved by his actions when the community of believers expelled him from their company. So he had thrown his garbage in the dumpster, finally. This believer had put it in the right place and was ready to get rid of sin in his life.
Now comes the reaction—this is where the trash workers come in. The community of believers did not seem to know what to do with this response. Paul had only told them to expel the man from their lives, but didn’t give them instructions about what should happen if he turned his life around. Now what? Do you keep on punishing someone? Do you bring up their sin? Do you treat them badly because of their past? Do we continue to ignore someone after they have made things right? How we deal with the sins of others is so very important. This was the point at which they would decide if they would throw the trash of another man on the ground too, and dispose of the sin badly, or if they would totally and neatly pick up his mess and take it out of the town.
Paul said that a little bit of yeast works through the whole batch. Unforgiveness is like that, too. If we do not forgive when someone turns their hearts back to God’s standards and back to his people, then we are the ones that have a garbage problem now, not them. We are making a mess out of the garbage that was taken to the right place in the first place.
What should our response be? Paul let the Corinthians know the proper response. He said, “If anyone has caused grief…the punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now, instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” (2 Corinthians 2: 5-8 NIV)
Love is the right response in waste management.