We had an unexpected and unwelcome guest drop in at house last week. The Flu! Clif became another victim of the virus that’s been rampant in the Atlanta, Georgia area of the United States. Once his diagnosis was confirmed, I mounted a largely solo campaign to keep everyone else in the house from succumbing to the powerful and miserable effects (headache, body aches, high fever, nausea, fatigue, etc.) of this particular strain of the virus.
My strategy included:
-Calling Ryan to make sure he wasn’t planning a surprise visit home from college
-Sending Jason off to his best friend’s house in advance of a three day camp-out with the Boy Scouts
-Cancelling my girl’s day out with Laura for Saturday
-Instructing Laura’s boyfriend to make sure that his plans didn’t include coming to visit us on Sunday
-Sequestering Leia in other parts of the house
-Maintaining a washing, sanitizing and disinfecting blitz to keep the common areas of the house as bug-free as possible.
And, not surprisingly, no one objected to my efforts to try to keep them healthy. Jason didn’t insist on staying at the house one more day. Laura didn’t show up for an unannounced visit. Leia didn’t ask a single question about how close she could sit to her Dad on the couch or when she could use one of his cups. That’s because we all believed the doctor’s warning that this was an especially contagious virus and everyone wanted very much to avoid the misery and potential complications that come with a bad case of the flu.
You know, I wonder what kind of suffering Christians could avoid if we responded to sin the same way we treat the flu virus. Most of us are so quick to trust the instructions of a human doctor and often so very hesitant to heed the clear guidelines that come from the One who created the universe and holds all things together. (Col. 1:17) Scripture counsels us to “flee” immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), idolatry (1 Cor 10:14), and youthful lusts (2 Tim 2:22), and to avoid “foolish controversies” (Titus 3:9), worldly, empty chatter, (2 Tim. 2:16) and to stay away from those who are unholy, ungrateful, conceited, and reckless (2 Tim 3:2-4).
But, a wise attitude of avoidance and prevention isn’t often what we adhere to when it comes to protecting ourselves from even the most obvious and easily avoidable dangers described in scripture. Too frequently, we fail to take even the most basic precautions even though we can all point to countless examples of people, both in the Scriptures and our personal lives, who suffered the ill effects of ignoring the healthy instructions of a loving God and wound up flat on their backs in enormous and obvious pain.
While we can never completely rid our environment of all contaminants, in Ephesians 4:22-24 we find a prescription for three godly practices that, if heeded, will help prevent the spread of sin in our lives.
Sanitize: “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires,” Any effort to promote health has to start with deep cleaning. Straightening up, dusting or moving things around won’t do anything to get rid of germs and viruses. You have to clean tainted areas thoroughly and either wash or throw away surfaces that breed infection. The same is true spiritually. You will never grow godliness in an atmosphere of decay. So step number one will always be putting off corruption and ungodly practices.
Be Diligent -“be made new in the attitude of your minds.” It’s not enough to just wipe counters and sanitize your hands once. You have to be meticulous to clean and re-clean problem areas. Spiritually speaking, diligence is key. If you really want to promote a healthy soul, it takes more than cleaning up outward behavior once. Effective sanitation begins in your mind… by altering the way you think. That’s one of the primary functions of the Word of God in a believer’s life. It teaches you how to consistently reorder your thoughts in ways that are consistent with your new life in Christ.
Change your lifestyle – “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” If you really want to stay healthy, you don’t just start cleaning when a virus shows up at your house. You have to develop a lifestyle of holiness. This is why so many believers fall to the same temptations over and over and over. Even committed believers can get fatigued of scrubbing up and through neglect, allow lying, anger, lust, jealousy, revenge and so many other impurities to pile up, only to become concerned with them when suffering and pain lay us up! At that point, it requires a double effort to knock down and clear out the contaminants that we voluntarily let into our system.
Whether we recognize it or not, we’re being influenced by the prevailing attitude, practices and belief systems of people who, at best, don’t know God, and at worst are God’s enemies, actively opposing His will. Remember that how we think will always determine how we behave. Always. So, the more you limit contact with these attitudes and beliefs, the more spiritually healthy and strong you’ll be to “Fight the good fight of the faith. (and) take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim 6:12).