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A Health Warning

While there is much that we don’t know about COVID-19, two things are evident: it is contagious, and it is deadlier than many other viruses, apparently in about three percent of cases, give or take. In view of these two facts, most people are viewing it seriously, taking extraordinary measures to limit its spread.

The Bible sometimes likens sin to disease. It is a natural analogy. When the Pharisees complained about Jesus’ association with “sinners,” the Lord responded, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). Consider our two facts as they apply to sin.

First, sin is contagious. Like a virus, it easily spreads from person to person. That is why we are warned to be careful about our associates. “Do not associate with a man given to anger, or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself” (Proverbs 22:24-25). “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Just as we cannot see a virus in transmission, influence is not always directly observable, either; nevertheless, the transfer is real. This characteristic of sin is one reason why the New Testament calls on churches to withdraw from members who, after being admonished, persist in a sinful course. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6b).

Quarantine is not the answer, however, for several  reasons. It is not realistic (note 1 Corinthians 5:10). It is opposite the disciple’s directive to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Besides, it could easily lead to a self-righteous smugness which is just as sinful as the immoral behavior it is trying to avoid!

Second, sin is deadly. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked . . .” (Ephesians 2:1-2). “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Unlike a virus, sin is deadly in 100% of cases. Even a little of it. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).

The point of all this is simple: why are we often less concerned about sin—a spiritual disease—than we are about this virus? Sin’s consequences are eternal! Economic losses or even loss of life cannot compare to the loss of a soul. Jesus taught, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:42). Was He not urging us to get serious about the problem of sin?
This virus will pass. Temptation will not. Be vigilant. Be careful. Above all, be Jesus’ disciple, for “by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

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