In western Colorado there once lived a yak named Chewy. If you don’t know what a yak is, just think of a hairy, horned cow. My brother and sister-in-law got Chewy and his sister when they were a few months old. Since he was small, just under 200 pounds, my brother would play with Chewy. He would push him on the head and pull on his horns and rough-housed with the yak calf. It was fun when he was a little guy. Flash forward a few years and about 1,000 pounds later, and a playful bull yak is not so much fun. Chewy became quite aggressive, even though he was just playing like he did when he was a calf. But now, in his full-grown state, he became dangerous. He flipped my sister-in-law over his head, which was quite the surprise to her as she was cleaning their pen. He came after my dad and was pawing the ground looking like he was going to charge. The last straw was when he hit my brother on the arm with his horn, which paralyzed my brother’s arm for 20 minutes. So Chewy the yak went where all the livestock go when they have outlived their purpose.
My brother was talking with a real rancher once about this troublesome yak. He was relaying how he used to play around with the yak, but that now the yak was just too dangerous. The rancher was flabbergasted that my brother would do such a thing. Playing with a calf is one thing, but calves grow up into large animals. And you don’t want a large animal rough-housing with you that doesn’t know its own strength. That is how people get hurt.
But we do this same thing all the time. Maybe not with yaks, but we do it with sin. We play with sin. We justify sin by saying that it is small. It is little stuff. It is not dangerous. It can’t hurt anyone. It is just a white lie. It is just a bit of gossip. No one is harmed. What we fail to consider is that sin can grow. Just like a small yak calf which can grow into a monster bull, so sin can grow from something small and seemingly insignificant to become dangerous.
What we once played with can now kill us.
Lustful thoughts grow into lustful looks which can change into an addiction to pornography which warps relationships and can destroy marriages.
A small white lie becomes a pattern which leads to larger and greater lies and can destroy your reputation and people’s trust of you.
Small gossips grow into talking behind everyone’s back which leads to loss of friendships and people lose respect for you.
A small indiscretion can grow into a full blown lack of integrity.
What do we do? Sometimes it is too late - the sin has grown and so you find yourself fighting a bull. You might get flipped a time or two. But you seek help and you put that sin down. It is not easy, it doesn’t go without a fight, but you have to do it.
But there is a better way. It takes forethought and it takes intentionality. As the rancher would most likely say to my brother, “Don’t play with the yaks.” Don’t play with sin. Don’t set yourself up to play with something that will grow to something that can kill and maim you. Put it down while you still can. Take care of it before it becomes a force to be reckoned with.
John Owen famously said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” This sounds extreme to our us today. We focus on the freedom we have and the license that comes from being in Christ. The truth is that if we are serious about living for Christ, we will be killing sin. Sin is not something to play with, it is something to be rooted out and stomped out. Ending it while it is small is much easier than wrestling a 1,200-pound bull.