A number of years ago my wife Lori and I were traveling in a motorhome from the Oregon coast to the inner part of the state. We slowly meandered our way along a beautiful two-lane highway through the forest and mountains along the edge of a gorgeous stream.
One of the things I love about Oregon is that wild berry bushes abound here, and the place to find them is along the edges of creeks and streams. As we traveled, I kept noticing what appeared to be huge dark berries ripe for the picking. Eventually I pulled over in a safe turnout in the road and headed straight for the bushes with bucket in hand. Lori had never experienced berries like this before, and at first she protested, wondering, “Is it legal to pick these?” I assured her it was, and within less than ten minutes we had almost a gallon of shiny, dark berries ready for our consumption.
But one of the problems is that alongside those succulent berries are nasty thorns. It seems impossible to pick berries and not at some point get entangled in the vines, almost as if the thorns intentionally reach out to snag you. Attempts to free yourself from one vine inevitably causes you to get entangled in others, until you are able to extract yourself cut or punctured. But, if you are like me, you do your best to reach as far into the bush as possible because that’s where the best berries are. It’s as if those little berries are making the siren’s call, knowing you’ll reach for them and then those viperous fangs of thorns spring out to hook into your arm.
Getting entangled in the berry bush is a lot like what God warns us will happen with sin. No one in their right mind would ever attempt to walk straight through a 100-foot-wide berry bush, no matter how great the prize was on the other side, because they know that they would get so entangled and cut that they would exit looking like they fought fifty sword-wielding ninjas. Thankfully, Jesus has gone ahead and cut a path straight through the thorns, freeing us from our sin. But when we do sin, it’s as if we have veered off the path into the thorns where we can get cut and entangled. The path Jesus blazed between the thorns is narrow, but if we stay on it we will make it safely to the other side. Keeping our eyes on the prize, we can make it through the berry bush of sin.
Hebrews 12:1 NIV
“…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…”