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No Messy Tails

A few years ago we were fortunate enough to stay at a sheep and beef station down in Hawkes Bay. We stayed during docking season and were invited to go and watch the process.

Have you ever been around for docking?


So for those of us who might not know (I didn’t, but I do now!), docking is the shortening of a lamb’s tail. Now there are a variety of ways a farmer might do this. Suffice to say it seemed rather intrusive and unpleasant for the lamb. One method places a tight ring around the tail which cuts off circulation. This then makes the end of the tail die; the dead part eventually falls off and the lamb is left with a shorter tail. All seems a bit unnecessary in some ways. 


However, the thing is, if you don’t dock a lamb’s tail, the lamb is unable to clean itself as, er, let’s say, unpleasant things get stuck in its tail which leads to a wide variety of diseases and other complications. What seems painful in the moment for the lamb is actually necessary for a healthy and fruitful life.


In Matthew 5, verses 29 to 30, Jesus told us to do something similar, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away… if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.” 


Seems like a pretty intense and harsh directive!


But Jesus wants us to understand the severity of what will happen if we insist on carrying temptation and sin around with us. If we don’t make a decisive effort to remove the ‘long tails’ of sin, it’ll lead to filth and disease in our lives. Paul exhorts the Colossians in a similar manner in verses 5-10 of chapter 3 where he says things like, “Put to death… rid yourselves…” 


Both Jesus and Paul are saying, “stick a tight ring on it, let it die and fall away from you!” What might seem drastic in the short term ultimately leads to saving yourself from getting caught up in all sorts of mess and nastiness.


However, don’t despair if this all feels a bit daunting and overwhelming. Just as a lamb isn’t expected to dock its tail alone, neither does God expect us to deal with our temptation and sin independently. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 He promises “a way out” so we can endure temptation and is always “faithful and just” when we confess before Him. 1 John 1:9 tells us that not only will He forgive our sins, but He’ll purify us too. Phew!


No messy tails anymore!


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