I guess this is the season when germs, cold and flu are on our minds. That Satan and the evil spirits he commands, much like germs, are EVERYWHERE, is an analogy that has remained on my mind this week.
A “thought question” from my weekly Bible study asked what it meant to resist the devil. That seemingly simple question plunged me into thought and reflection. Scripture tells us to resist Satan (1 Peter 5:9) and he will flee from us. We have to look a little more deeply at the Scriptures and think a bit more deeply about ourselves and how we live our lives to understand exactly what resisting looks and sounds like.
My thoughts turned back to my earlier germ analogy. Most of us want to resist a cold or the flu. Sure, if we get sick, we can scurry to our local drugstore and have our pick of over-the-counter meds designed to soothe our ails – coughing, sneezing, body aches… If our symptoms seem to exceed the relief that the OTCs offer us, our personal care physicians stand ready to prescribe pills, drops, ointments and syrups.
All that sounds well and good, but going to the doctor takes time, buying meds cost money and while meds solve one problem, they sometimes cause others. (Ever listen to those drug commercials – “may cause cramping, nausea, hair loss, severe diarrhea…” Seriously?) You get the idea. So, the best course of action is not to catch a cold or the flu in the first place!
I wrote earlier about washing your hands to avoid the spread of germs. But the truth of the matter is that all the hand washing in the world is no guarantee that you will not get sick. We can do our best to minimize the number of surfaces we touch, saturate ourselves with hand sanitizer and scrub with soap and warm water until our hands are literally raw. Germs are still out there! Scientists tell us that what you can’t see can hurt you.
Using high-speed imagery, MIT researchers analyzed the trajectory of the “fallout” from a sneeze. The force of a sneeze can send 100,000 germs across a distance of 5 to 32 feet. While most of the larger, heavier drops fall quickly to the floor or other surfaces under the influence of gravity, the smaller and lighter particles are less affected by gravity and can stay airborne almost indefinitely as they are caught up in and dispersed by the room’s airflow. Droplets that remain airborne can continue to travel through ventilation systems, ending up even farther away. Two points: If you are around sick people, be mindful of what you might catch. If you are the sick person, be mindful of what you might spread!
The sin analogy raises two additional points for us. If you are around sin, be mindful of what you might catch. If you engage in sinful behavior, be mindful of what you might spread!
Just as we can “catch” the flu bug, we can “catch” bad habits. An off color joke here, a trashy movie there, a swear word later, a “little white lie,” etc. While there’s some controversy about whether Frank Outlaw, Lao Tzu or Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny,” whichever wise man spoke these words, he must have been thinking of Proverbs 4:23 which teaches us to guard our hearts. All that we say, all that we do, all that we are flows from it. What we watch, what we do, we become. Watch what you are catching.
As Christians we must also be mindful of what we are spreading. Matthew 5:16 says we are to let our lights shine before others so they may give glory to the Father. Ephesians 5:8 teaches that we are to walk as children of light while verses 1 and 2 of this same text remind us to be imitators of God. 1 Peter 2:21 says we were called to follow Christ’s example – to live lives that reflect Him. Our lives are to be a testimony for Jesus – that He is alive, that He has changed us, that He changes lives. Saint Francis of Assisi is credited for saying, “Preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” In short, we are to preach Jesus through our lives – what we do, what we say, how we behave, where we go, how we deal with struggles… Why? The world is watching, and our lives are the most powerful testimony of the Christ that we say lives within us. What are you spreading?