This past week, my younger son came down with the flu (which had been generously passed along to him by his older brother). Though not exactly a cause for celebration, I was happy to note how much time had passed since his last major illness. You see, for the first few years of his life, my younger son seemed to be a virtual “microbe magnet”, picking up a new intestinal “bug” or cold virus roughly every six weeks. However, little-by-little, my wife & I discovered that the germs weren’t so much magnetically drawn to him as they were actively sought out by him. For instance, on one occasion, my wife was running some errands in our trusty minivan and glanced in the rearview mirror just in time to see my son merrily gnawing away at the bottom of his tennis shoes. Within two days he was “sick unto death”, laying on the couch hugging his “sick bucket” (yes, he was ill so often that he had his own personal puke bucket).
Now, when this “shoe licking” episode was related to me, I had basically three courses of action from which to choose:
1. Confiscate his shoes and forbid him from ever donning footwear again in order to minimize his risk of illness.
2. Deny that the shoe licking had anything to do with the illness, shift the blame onto someone else (“It must’ve come from another sick kid in the nursery”) and allow him to continue with his filthy habit.
3. Explain to him the good news that we found out what caused his sickness, how it can be overcome and how he can continue on in better health (with ever-decreasing sickness) by being more aware of germs and cleanliness.
Though not using those exact words, I chose option #3. (I think my words were more along the lines of, “Hey, buddy, you know how much you hate throwing up? If you’d quit chomping on old shoes and start washing your hands once-in-awhile, you wouldn’t get sick so much.”). The message seemed to get through to him somewhat, and combined with (stern) periodic reminders from my wife to stay diligent in his hygiene, my son’s health has greatly improved in recent years. Though, as this past week proved, there are still occasional “slips” along the way.
The three choices I had in dealing with my son’s illness are, in general, the same three options people choose from when confronted with sin and its deadly effects.
1. The “religious” option is to completely ban and prohibit anything that can possibly transmit or carry sin – no matter how silly or counterproductive — without ever actually dealing with the source of the sin. [“Ban the shoes!”]
2. The “liberal” option is to deny that sin exists and maintain that everyone should just continue doing whatever they like. The blame for any societal ills can be shifted onto institutions, governments and a handful of evil individuals. [“The shoes didn’t make you sick, society did –keep on licking the shoes!”]
3. The “gospel” option is to understand that sin is indeed making you “sick”, that Jesus is the cure and that a life pursuing holiness (prodded by stern reminders from the Holy Spirit) will lead to ever better spiritual health (though “setbacks” are still possible, if not as common). [“Keep the shoes, but don’t lick them – choose health (life) instead!”]
We can’t “ban” our way to spiritual health or “deny” our way there either (“Sin? What sin?”). Jesus is the only way to true spiritual health. Let us take the cure in full measure!
Worship – Grow – Serve