Whenever I’m watching a TV show, and the main antagonist is defeated but isn’t dead, I know I’ll be seeing that person again in a future episode. The same goes for movies, where if the villain isn’t dead, he or she will be back in a sequel. Unless I see them die completely, a return is inevitable. Similarly, in the firefighting world, the smallest oversight in a doused fire can lead to the most disastrous outcome. Firefighters have to make sure that when a fire is out, it is completely out. There can be no trace of warmth whatsoever, or they run the risk of reignition. When a house is completely doused, they go through the drenched dwelling, tearing open walls, ripping up floors, and getting rid of furniture, making sure there are no remaining embers. Should the smallest possible spark still exist, the fire could rekindle and the dwelling catch fire once again. Similarly, in the medical profession in dealing with cancer, doctors need to make sure that all traces are completely removed so that the patient can be healthy and cancer-free. If even a few cells are left behind, the patient can be stricken again years later, and all of the previous efforts will be for naught. These examples all have a common thread: when harmful things exist, in order to get rid of them completely, you need to diligently eliminate every bit of it or risk its return. If even a trace exists, the job is not complete, and a return to harm is inevitable. God maintains a comparable mentality in 1 Samuel 15, having us heed a similar warning with King Saul of Israel. In the beginning of the story, God tells Saul that He will make him the anointed king of Israel, but must first obey this one command: Saul needs to completely destroy the Amalekites, a nation that had worked against Israel. Saul obeys and attacks these people, killing each and every one of them, but instead of killing their king, he captures him, sparing his life. Furious with Saul’s disobedience, God turned to the prophet Samuel to approach Saul and remove him from leadership. Once done, “Samuel said, ‘Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.’ So Agag came to him cautiously. And Agag said, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past.’ But… Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal” (15.32-4 NKJV). Although seemingly harsh in judgement, God’s decision is the correct one. Like Samuel, when we are trying to eliminate something harmful from our lives, it is important that we too hack it to pieces. If we don’t, we run the risk of it returning to re-harm us. The same can be said when we try to eliminate our bad habits. Like weeds that we pull at the tops of and do not get the roots, these bad habits return on us and regrow despite our best intentions. King Agag’s plea to Samuel reflects the seemingly harmless nature of simple remnants of our past bad habits, the small things we leave around that we think can’t possibly hurt us, but we should remain wiser than that, knowing that these remnants will build in strength over time to reignite those bad habits. Yet, our closets, drawers, and out-of-sight corners are filled with the leftovers of these past lives of ours, just waiting to take hold of us again. If we want to truly conquer harmful and evil practices in our lives, we need to hack those habits to pieces, making sure to get rid of every trace of it. Now’s the time to find those habitual leftovers and make sure they are gone from our lives before our weakness sets in and their power dominates us. With God’s directive, we can make sure our habits never return. Amen.