Monday, September 8, 2014

Spiritual Ebola

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo from Flickr and supplied by NIAID

The other night, I was trying to fit several things into the same time frame.  My day had been hectic. I had prayed when I got up, but I was just getting to my devotional reading for the day.  A recent online conversation weighed heavily on my mind.  And I was trying to catch up on the news, where the latest information about the ebola breakout caught my attention.  All of that combined to create an interesting train of thought.

Today's illustration is a colorized electron microscope view of the ebola virus.  It looks like it could be a nice abstract painting.  But, from the news stories, we know that ebola is anything but nice. That's the heart of what we want to share today.

John 7:38 (KJV)  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

That verse was from one of the devotionals I read that day.  The devotional suggested that our faith and intake from the Word isn't just for our own edification, but so we could grow in both and become a conduit to others. Not because we are required to do so, but because that's the natural outcome.  If we're fully connected in our relationship with God, our spiritual self can't hold all that God sends us -- there's an overflow.  We pass on to others some of what we've gained, without any conscious effort on our part. But that can be hindered.

The ebola virus has a 2-21 day incubation period before any symptoms show up.  When we start to see symptoms, they are very much like other forms of the flu.  And, while scientists believe that the virus is passed along via blood or bodily fluids, they really aren't sure if that's 100% correct or there may be another means of transmission.  We are just beginning to test a preventive vaccine and there is no known cure for ebola.  The mortality rate is between 50-90% for those infected.  

Remembering that our illustration is only visible through an electron microscope, we've described very dire consequences for something we can't see with the naked eye or even a normal microscope.  And something that, in our colored illustration, looks so nice and so innocent.  With all of that, there's something worse.

Think of something whose incubation period wildly fluctuates.  When symptoms show up, they can vary widely, both in what is seen and the apparent severity.  It's passed along almost by a thought. There's almost a 100% mortality rate.  Vaccines, while largely available, are mostly ignored.  It can seem highly attractive, despite being so deadly.  What's more deadly than ebola?  Sin!

Sin can start with a thought and incubate for decades before symptoms are noticed.  The symptoms may seem innocent, but they always crowd out God and include a large dose of self.  With the exception of Jesus Christ, there's no man, woman, or child who doesn't succumb to the disease.

All of that sounds terminally serious.  With ebola, it is.  The vaccines (there are several different ones) are untested with humans.  While two aid workers were given one variation, no one is sure if their recovery was the vaccine and they got it early enough in their battle to allow it to work, the difference in how they were treated in the US hospital they were taken to, some combination of both, or something in their own immune systems.  In any case, there's not a lot of hope yet of turning the tide of the epidemic that has already killed over 2000 in Africa.

While the ebola epidemic continues to take a high toll, the cost of sin is even greater.  It cost Jesus Christ a whole series of torments because the punishment needed to be taken by a human, but was too great for someone only human.  Jesus became our "vaccine" for sin -- for everyone.  And that's readily available for all of us.  But, just like vaccines for physical ills, our vaccine for sin doesn't do us any good if we don't allow ourselves to be vaccinated.  We mentioned earlier that sin can appear more attractive than our life connected to God.  Most really serious illnesses will, at a point where the body stops functioning correctly, create delusions.  Most of us have already reached that point spiritually by the time it becomes evident we need salvation.  Fortunately, there are still lots of moments of lucidity to allow us to accept getting our spiritual vaccination.

Once we've accepted our salvation, we're not done with sin.  We're in a weakened state.  And, like any other illness, our experience of recovery is a process, not an instantaneous change.  I said "experience" for a reason.  The end result really is instantaneous.  But our perceptions are flawed by our fallen state.  So, it appears to be a process.  And that perception can be discouraging, sometimes.  In those moments, we need to realize it's our perception, not the reality of our salvation, that's at fault.  We don't see ourselves as God sees us -- perfect through His Son.  Any waning symptoms can be dealt with by liberal doses of repentance, prayer and the Word.

Have you gotten past the delusion that makes us think we don't need our spiritual vaccination?  And, if you have, have you learned to enjoy the recovery and recognize who you are in Christ?

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