I keep a clean house. Like, obsessively clean. I vacuum twice a week, periodically go through my items and get rid of things to prevent clutter, aggressively scrub my bathroom, and in order to relax, I do the dishes. So imagine my surprise when I found out my beloved safe haven was infested with ants, spiders, one odd worm, and an army of wasps.
It began after I returned home from a weeklong vacation. I was ready to get settled back in and begin my weekly routine once again. As I opened my storm door I discovered…one, two, THREE wasps perched by their nest (ew), right above my front door. I knew that the nest had to go because, within any moment, a wasp would fly into my living room. They were that close. I rushed to a drugstore to get the proper insect repellent, “Raid.” Mind you, my clearing the Walgreens shelf of the insect repellent goes against my conscience. I’m a natural kind of girl—my house is mostly free of chemicals as I use organic supplies and essential oils. But this kind of work would take more than a douse of peppermint oil. This meant war.
The extermination became an ordeal: I emptied the spray bottle within minutes, went on to use half of a second bottle, and smashed the wasp nests and other spider webs with a broom. I was sweating, raging, cursing the creatures that I knew would harm me. I sprayed the little terrorists, only to come back into my house and find ants lining my kitchen counter. It was a Kafka story, to say the least.
My mass slaughter of the insects who had come to threaten my peace of mind reminded me of our need to preserve our small groups from the impurities, sins, and weaknesses that threaten to destroy our brothers and sisters in Christ within our small groups.
The church is a house, a body of believers. And because people make up the church and not a building, our small groups are extensions of our church. In our small groups, we cannot be blind to the fact that predators come to infect both our unity and our peace—predators such as gossip, slander, shame, lust, pornography, envy, adultery, theft, and deceit.
I noticed that the places where the bugs inhabited were the corners and crevices that I never maintained. They were the high-up places I couldn’t reach, the nooks along the baseboard that collected dust and cobwebs. I had neglected their regular upkeep; they were the dusty places that lacked discipline.
Sin’s kind of like that, right? It creeps up among the days between Sunday and Wednesday. Sinful habits collect their cobwebs in the neglected parts of our life, the places we fail to clean and maintain. It’s the time it takes to skip reading the Word, or talking to God, or meeting accountability partners.
Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. – 1 Peter 5:8, CSB
According to Timothy Friberg’s Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, “sober-minded” not only means to refrain from the abuse of alcohol, but it also bears the implication of watchfulness. It is to be carefully observant, attentive, or aware. It is to be watchful, circumspect. Its synonyms call to exercise self–restraint; to act and think soberly; to cause someone to be of a sound mind or sober. And note the command “be alert”—it is a call to be vigilant, wakeful, and watchful.
So what does your small group need to kill? What corners have you as leaders neglected to care for? What secret sins are your group members gripping onto that they need to confess? What wound are you nursing? What shame are you bearing? Someone else needs to know, because you can’t kill the beast alone.
Caroline Case is a proud Nashville transplant from Naples, Florida, who serves as the Production Editor for Lifeway’s SmallGroup.com and Discipleship in Context teams. Caroline has a Bachelor of Communication from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. She is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in English and Creative Writing at Belmont University in Nashville, where she will go on to pursue her doctorate and teach.