I was sitting at the desk in our study/office this morning, working on some e-mails before I went to work, and watching Radley playing out in the backyard. I really didn't want him out in the backyard this morning, because it's been raining here most all weekend, and he had a bath on Saturday and was clean and smelled good, but he wanted to be out there, so I let him do what he wanted to do. He ended up, as he normally does, at the back fence where tree limbs hang over from the woods behind our house, biting and pulling on the limbs. It's one of his favorite pastimes, and I grimaced as I watched him, wrestle with the wet limbs that are actually more like vines, because I knew the more he got wrapped up in them, the dirtier he was getting. But, again, it's something he loves to do, so I let him do it. Now, I should say that he has plenty of things he could be chewing on inside the house, where it's warm and dry. My roommate spends a small fortune on bones, chew toys, etc. so that he'll have plenty to play with, but nope, those won't do. He wants the vines, the branches, the dirt and grime.
Then, it happened, as it sometimes does, I looked up from the computer, and he was tangled in one of the vines. One of his back legs had gotten caught, and he was trying to get out. I watched for a while to see if he would in fact be able to get loose, but then, I saw him go down to the ground and heard him start to whimper: the two signs that he is caught, can't get out, and needs help. So, already dressed for work, I went out to set him free. I knew there was a good chance that I would get mud on me and have to change my clothes after it was done. At the very least, I figured my hands would get dirty. Plus, it was his own fault. If he wouldn't go over and pull and twist and chew on those dumb vines, he wouldn't be caught in the first place. But, no matter how I try to justify and reason it out, it never fails. When I see him unable to free himself and hear those little puppy cries for help, my heart is compelled to go set him free. Even if it means I have to get a little dirty, and even if it is his fault in the first place.
Here's the thing: that's exactly how community within the body should be. We ought always to be watching each other "through the window," keeping an eye on each other to make sure that we can see when trouble comes. Then, in those moments when one of our brothers or sisters is caught in the vine -- whether it's their fault or not -- and they go down to the ground and start to whimper for help, our reaction should be to go get them and do everything in our power to help get them free of whatever has them caught. We may get a little (or a lot) dirty in the process, but that's really not important. And it doesn't even matter if it's the second, third, or fortieth time they've gotten caught in that same vine because they just won't leave it alone. The Gospel is for people who need second, third, and four-thousandth chances, because we all have our vines that we love to go back to over and over again. I hope and pray that as I understand the Gospel more and more and daily live more fully in it, that my heart will be softened more and more and that I'll never resist going after those caught in the vines of sin and the world.