Small groups can be painful.

Well, they can also bring connection and support and encouragement.

But they can also be painful.

This week, our group began a new study. We are reading a book by Jerry Bridges, “Respectable Sins.” Do you know what our small group is going to learn how to do over the next several months? Yes, confront the sins we tolerate in life. We live in a world which says, “I’m OK and you are OK.” Well, more accurately these days, “I’m OK, and you are not OK.” We are good at pointing out the sin in others while we whitewash or even ignore our own.

We don’t talk much about sin in our culture. In the church, we harp on the biggies and make sure that we are on the righteous side of those devious beasts of sin. Yet we tolerate the more socially acceptable sins present in our culture. Hence the book. After this week’s home group, I must admit that sin is within me. It’s painful truth.

We plunged the depth of our sinful state this week. We covered three chapters (just like the study guide told us to do). And each chapter took us deeper into the pit of our sinful state. The author kept promising hope, but it wasn’t there. Not yet. It’ll come I’m sure. I do need to grasp an accurate picture of life lived for self if I am going to grasp the unsearchable riches in Christ. This week, I got to face the ugly truth of sin.

Sin is like cancer. It’s malignant and dangerous. If we deny it, it will kill us. We can’t ignore it because it will surely bring us to ruin. And we can’t simply focus on the very obvious sin in our lives, we have to address the more subtle ones, too. All sin, any sin, breaks God’s law.

I find it way too easy to downplay things like impatience, gossip, pride, resentment, and anger. But I forget that those “acceptable” sins are just as cancerous as the biggies. As long as I follow Jesus I am going to battle sin. I — well, we — must face it clearly and with eyes wide open. And even though our culture as a whole ignores even the word itself (sin) it cannot disappear from our thinking. Sin is very real. The consequences of ignoring it or justifying it or making light of it are always the same. It will destroy our lives as surely as untreated cancer.

One quote struck me this week. It wasn’t from the Bible, but from the secular psychologist, Karl Menninger. He wrote, “the very word, sin, which seems to have disappeared, was once a proud word. It was once a strong word, and ominous and serious word… But the word went away. It has almost disappeared — the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?” What ever happened to sin?

So, small groups can be painful. Well, I guess if we just swept our sin under the rug it wouldn’t be so painful. Maybe it’s not the small group that’s painful. Maybe it’s me. And whoever recommended we study this stinking book. It wasn’t me!