This week was the Harford County Farm Fair. Jenny (my wife) and Naomi (my eight year old daughter) are a part of 4-H and so spent a lot of time at the fair. One day I was both desiring a walk and also wanted to visit them so I “multi-tasked” by parking at the Ma and Pa trail and hiking to the fair. It was a lovely day and I was enjoying the walking, the praying, the people-watching, etc… As I was heading down the path minding my own business, I walked too close to a tree and stirred up a bee’s nest. They were bigger bees, and probably even bigger in my mind then in reality, but it was not long before my walk turned into a sprint away from pain. One bee in particular seemed interested in the chase, the others turning around after a few paces. In the end I avoided the sting – and on the way back, I avoided the tree.
I have been thinking a bit about sin and death and the whole armor of God as I have been preaching through the final major section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on Sunday morning. The “non-sting” incident on my walk reminded me of Paul’s words of comfort to the Christian from his first letter to the Corinthian church – “‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The sting of death is sin” – there it is. Those bees stirred up. That particular one, death, chasing us down. Stinging us with our sins … no antidote in sight and sting after sting hitting its mark … hopeless, helpless without a remedy … and the toxin of sin spreading out, lying to us and telling us to despair or telling us that we are just fine, that we are somehow immune to the toxin and its effects. The toxin of sin keeping us from the remedy for sin! Death stings and stings and stings again.
But I escaped the bees. Paul tells the Corinthians, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Christ bore the sting of death for us on the cross. He took our sin. Christ then in the resurrection destroyed death’s power over us. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
We walk through life, oftentimes unaware of the “evil day” in which we live, or the “evil day” which will soon come upon us personally. Death comes to sting. But Christ came to save. Death is swallowed up in victory, as its toxin no longer has power over us. And yet, the bee remains for now, still there in the tree, hoping to get some wandering Christian to step too close once again, just to remind him or her of the hurt he can cause, of sin’s disastrous effect on our lives. Maybe we ought to seek to avoid the tree, even though the bee there can no longer have its way with us forever? Why do we return to the place where the sting is? Why give sin an opportunity in my heart? Better to walk with Christ, to be thankful always, praying always, doing good always, praising Him always. It’s way better than getting stung.