Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)
The rash developed last month. It flared on the inside of both my wrists and itched like hives.
I smeared hydrocortisone cream on it several times a day, but it blistered, seeped, scabbed over—and spread. Assuming it was eczema, I bought a tube of eczema relief cream—not the cheap stuff, either. It didn’t help.
Could it be an allergic reaction?
I’d had a persistent rash last year, too, that disappeared when I stopped eating foods containing gluten, a substance in wheat, barley, and rye.
I’d recently been eating a lot of bread, pasta, sweets—not a good thing. I discovered 20 years ago the ill effects of those foods on my body—the fatigue, the weight gain, the inability to lose it, the brain fog. All those foods contain gluten. When I eliminated them from my diet, I felt better.
But like the author of Proverbs wrote, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).
Over the years, I yoyoed between eating refined carbs and avoiding them. I felt good when I didn’t eat them, but then I’d convince myself just a little taste wouldn’t hurt. And the little taste became a bigger taste—until I went hog wild eating bread and pasta and overwhelming my body with what’s essentially bad for it. Which is what I did last month.
I researched online, typing “rash on the inside of wrists” in my browser. I really didn’t expect the long list of web pages relating to gluten-causing rashes.
So, once again, I eliminated gluten from my diet and began scrutinizing labels to make sure there was no cross-contamination at the manufacturing plant.
In a week the rash calmed down and faded.
You’d think I’d know better.
Isn’t sin the same way?
We know, in our heart of hearts, it’s bad for us. But we dabble in it because we’ve convinced ourselves “just a little won’t hurt” or “it won’t affect me.”
But we’re dead wrong.
There’s no difference between sinning a little and sinning a lot. Sin is sin, and its effects are the same: it separates us from a loving, holy God; it corrupts and contaminates that which was good and pure; it entangles us (Paul often uses the analogy of slavery when he refers to sin); it brings sorrow; and it affects not only the sinner, but also those who are innocent.
There is no salve we can put on to make it go away; no medicine we can take will cure it.
To get rid of the rash, I first had to admit gluten was causing it. Then I had to eliminate all gluten from my diet. I must be vigilant to make sure it doesn’t sneak in by the back door of a seemingly innocent food.
So it is with sin. We must admit we’ve sinned (Romans 3:23), confess it to God (1 John 1:9), and, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, recognize it when it tries to sneak back in (John 16:13).
My rash has almost disappeared. I have more energy, I’m thinking more clearly, and I’m sleeping better.
Remind me, Lord, when temptation comes, that nothing sin can give me is worth what it takes from me. Provide me with the way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Amen.
Extra tea: Read and meditate on James 1:13–18