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A Pastor’s Reflections: The Trash Compactor

February 21, 2017

I can remember as a child that my parents had a trash compactor in the kitchen. To me, it was a neat machine. We could stuff all manner of trash into the can, close the door, hit the button, and then listen to the compactor crush and squeeze the trash into a nice package. My parents are neat freaks so we typically washed our trash so it didn’t smell (I know, I have issues), which meant we could cram a whole week’s worth of trash, or more, into the machine before we had to empty it. Trash compactors are great if you want to minimize the amount of trash you put in your waste can on the street, but they’re horrible if you’re talking about emotions like anger or bitterness. What do I mean?

Well, some of us have the tendency to compact our emotions. When we run into problems, we get angry, but we do our best not to show it. We compact the emotional trash until it’s out of sight. Bitterness? Same thing—compact it out of sight. From the outside observer’s perch, everything is fine until there’s an emotional explosion! All of the compacted negative emotions and bad feelings have nowhere to go and do it explodes onto the scene and covers bystanders—friends, family, children, spouse, and the like. This is how many people deal with their sin—they compact it, let it build until there’s an explosion, and then apologize for the mess, and move on. Like the instructions on the bottle of hair conditioner, apply, rinse, repeat, people compact, explode, apologize, and repeat. To say the least, this isn’t a healthy view of sanctification.

We are not emotional trash compactors. Sin has a deleterious effect on our spiritual well-being. The more we hold on to it, the more it makes things worse. If something makes you sinfully angry, then you need to deal with it. First, you need to repent of your anger. Seek the forgiveness of Christ through the gospel of grace. Once you’ve set things straight with Christ and repented of your sinful anger, then you need to determine whether you need to speak with others about the situation. If you were sitting in traffic and the chaos of rush-hour made you mad, well, then there’s no one to deal with other than you and Christ. But if your friend did something offensive, then you need to talk with him and explain the situation. In some cases, yes, letting the offense go is the right thing to do. We shouldn’t strain gnats, otherwise we’d constantly be having confrontation chats about every little peccadillo. In other cases, however, you need lovingly to confront your friend and let him know how he wronged you. This has a twofold benefit. First, it clears your conscience and unburdens you from harboring any ill will towards your friend. Second, if affords your friend the opportunity to repent of his own sin. Moreover, friendships tempered by the grace of the gospel and forgiveness often prove to be the strongest.

In the end, if you’re compacting sin, stop! We weren’t built to compact and store these things. Seek the forgiveness of Christ and unburden your soul from this heavy weight.